Many people who fall away from the Church have a number of reasons for doing so. While a number of the more outspoken of them tend to claim that they left the Church due to intellectual reasons. However, it seems that when one hears their “un-testimony” it becomes clear that they are more likely emotional reasons.
In most of these cases, someone at the church did something or said something that caused them to leave. Perhaps a pastor had a moral failure. Perhaps the person had his own moral failure and failed to find forgiveness or compassion in the church. Maybe the people were overly judgemental or had the “holier-than-thou” attitude. It could be that the people were hypocritical.
It is sad that these are some of the common reasons for people to fall away and leave their faith. This seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In fact, in the podcast Unbelievable from some time ago, one of the guests made reference to how one ought to respond to this type of thing rather than leaving their faith behind. He specifically discussed the practice of people misusing the scriptures in destructive ways. What he said about this was:
“The correct response to misuse is not non-use but right use.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. Rather than throwing up our hands and saying “Well, that’s it! I can’t take these Christians any more. They’re hypocritical, mean, judgemental, self-righteous, etc., etc., etc.” what we shouldbe doing instead is calling those people onto the carpet and showing them where and how they are deviating from what is taught in scripture. Of course, this requires that we actually know what scripture teaches ourselves.
Imagine if Paul decided that the Christians in Corinth were just worthless and decided to just leave them alone. We wouldn’t have his two letters that are now canonized into our New Testament. Think about that. What an impact that would have on all the weddings that use Paul’s definition of love.
When we see people misusing scripture or behaving in ways that hinder the message of the Gospel, we need to address it. The Church (as in…the people who make up the “visible” Church) must be held accountable. We can’t always just “turn the other cheek” and hope that our pastor finds out what so-and-so has been doing. We can’t make passive-aggressive suggestions to do a teaching series to address something that someone we know is doing wrong.
With that, however, when we confront those who need to be confronted we also have to do so in love. We must “speak the truth in love” and not beat people over the head. There are many of life’s issues that are less crystal clear as to how we are supposed to handle them. Confronting a believer who is misusing scripture or harming the message of Christ is not so ambiguous.
Have you had to confront another believer on their attitude or actions? How did you do it? Was it effective? Have you been confronted? How did it go?
Grace, love and peace.