“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
Luke 10:16, ESV
I don’t know about you, but I am saddened when people I love turn away from the faith in Jesus Christ. It hurts me to my core. Sometimes I can take it personally and wonder what I did wrong. Unfortunately, this is a reality that the majority of us face. I am most troubled when I see the pain in the eyes of a parent and grandparent that feel helpless and hopeless when they see their children deny and reject the faith in Jesus Christ and they watch as their grandchildren are being raised outside of the faith of Jesus Christ. The words most commonly heard are, “I don’t know what happened, they were raised in the faith.”
As a pastor, I have often been told by those that walked away that the reason they left is “I was forced to go to church and didn’t like it.” Some say this that later return and raised their children with an understanding of choice. I have read some great statements on this and how silly the logic of that statement truly is when we think about what the role is as parents. I know my parents made me do a lot of things I didn’t want to do. I mean I had to eat regularly, brush my teeth, go to bed, go to school, do my homework, clean my room, etc. The list is long and each person may have different things that were expected of them. As parents we are called to raise up our children in the faith in Jesus Christ. We are reminded in Deuteronomy of this:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:4–9, ESV
This was written as the people of Israel were preparing to enter into the promised land (it is important to note that God was a visible presence then – a pillar of smoke (or cloud) by day and a pillar of fire by night – one would only have to step out of their tent and look to the tabernacle to see God’s presence. Since it was important to remind parents to do this then, imagine how much of a greater importance it was to do this when he wasn’t as easy to point to with the children. Even with that we also know that the Israelite’s were rebellious in the wilderness and that rebellion didn’t stop their.
Our hearts are rebellious when left to our own thinking, that is where the Word of God and our continual reading and study of it alongside our prayers and our worship. In doing so our lives are reshaped and directed in the way that God desires. The word of God certainly does not fall flat and through our study and prayer the Holy Spirit will work. Unfortunately, not all hearts will move to follow Christ Jesus. There will be some that will be repulsed by the Holy Spirit and driven to their own sinful desires. That, however, does not mean that we stop praying for them or reaching out to them.
Having personally walked away, I have some experience in knowing the pain that drove me away, but also know the power of prayer as I know that many people prayed for me. The greatest witness of the faithful that I received was from those that never pressured me to believe but were faithful and open in their daily witness and interactions. I had people that came with a salvation message and pressured me to “pray the prayer” and believe in Jesus Christ. It wasn’t very effective for me and, even worse, made me more resistant to the Gospel. With this understanding, my heart softened for those that are hurting because a loved one has walked away as well as for those that have walked away because of hurt and/or disenchantment with the Christian faith.
So, what can we do? First, let us listen. Let us listen to God’s Word and his call for us in our witness. Listen to those that have been hurt and hear the issues that they have had in the faith. Second, let us pray. Let us pray for those whom we love that have fallen away. Let us pray for those around us that may never have known the faith and love or our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray that God give us the words to speak into peoples lives and, also, give us the ability to be silent when should say nothing at all. Third, let us live our lives as a witness to our faith not only in what we do well, but also in where we err. Let us honestly live out our Christian faith in such a way that it may have a transformative influence in the lives of those that we encounter, especially in how we are when we err. Let our lives be real and not just a mask of how we think we should appear. Often, as Christians, we try to hide our errors and shortcomings, we don’t show our struggles, and our lives may seem to be unattainable for those struggling (which if all they see is the ideal it truly is unattainable). It is good to remember that their was only one person who walked the earth that lived a perfect life and they crucified him. We, as Christians, are not perfect and that is why we need a Savior.
For this reason, I began Christ Over Coffee to offer a safe place for conversation for believer and unbeliever alike. We can also talk about different traditions and beliefs. Being Lutheran in my Christian faith offers a different perspective which may or may not be known by others. Questions are a good place to begin any discussion and no question of faith is off limits. Let us search the Word together, let us discuss the faith together, and let us praise our Lord Jesus Christ together. We, as Christians, are united in our Triune God, – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and in that we can find areas of agreement. That is the thing that differentiates us from other faiths. Washed in the waters of Baptism, we are also united. There are differences in how we understand these gifts of grace – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper – but the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ remains. Let us speak of that faith, that grace, and enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, or another drink. Let us find comfort in Christ and his holy Word.