I came across this meme on Facebook this morning.
I have seen and heard this and other thoughts like it, posted and shared around social media. While there is some truth to it, I don’t think it is very helpful. In fact, I think that it is more wrong than right.
The Church is the body of Christ. As Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), we Christians are supposed to be visible images of the invisible God. I know, Christians are not perfect (understatement of the year). Christians are no less capable of hurting people than anyone else. We are never going to be perfect at incarnating the love of Jesus to those around us. But that is what we are to be striving towards. Jesus said that the world will know we are His disciples when we love one another in the same way that He has loved us (John 13:34-35). When we hurt people to the point that they lose their faith in God, the undeniable fact is that we have utterly failed at our mission.
This kind of thinking rationalizes that we have no real culpability in a person’s walking away from God because they were hurt. I know I say it often (but if we can repeat worship choruses over and over, certainly its kosher for me to repeat this over and over)—when we rationalize we are telling ourselves rational
This statement, in my opinion, is not very loving. Nor is it humble. Paul says in Romans 12:18 (NIV), If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Jesus was even stronger:
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where
‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’
Everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other (Mark 9:43, NIV).
To my palate, this thought tastes more like an “elder brother salt substitute” (Luke 15:28-30) than real salt.
Last, it distances ourselves from the person who has given up. It trivializes their pain. It implies that they are—to us—too stupid to see the truth. That is the judgement being passed is it not? The prodigal son in Luke 15 was “too stupid” to see the love of his father, but that did not stop his father from leaving home and going out on the road looking for him. Jesus pursues broken people even when they are not pursuing Him. We need to do the same. Anything that encourages us to have the thought, “the loss of so-and-so’s faith is acceptable because their faith was obviously in people rather than God,” says more about what is wrong in the one thinking it, than it does about the person it is said about. As the saying goes, when you point your finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointed back at you.