Rachel Held Evans talked about”15 reasons i left the church” over on her blog today. Needless to say, with all the drama regarding the latest in Mars Hill Church and spiritual abuse, elections coming up, and new laws being presented for different people demographics (ie: gay marriage, immigration reform), it’s no wonder that more and more people are leaving the church.
It seems that the reasons that people are leaving the church all boil down to this: a lack of Grace and Love in the Church. The church seems to be continually divided right down the middle with the Right and the Left. I have talked many different times about the need for a seperation of Church and State. I still fully support it, because I feel that it takes out the idea of grace and love from our Christianity and instead leads to what would benefit our needs and beliefs rather than the need of others. The Jesus I have met and continue to follow would never look down on somebody for their religion or faith. The God I worship would not wish death on people even if they did the most horrible thing imaginable. Instead, I am led by the Holy Spirit to Love.
But this is difficult for us to understand. This is idea of “a lot of room in God’s Kingdom” may sound like awful theology to us, because we live in America. This is the land of Justice – a land where people get what they deserve – it’s an Eye for an Eye. Here in America, if a person slaps you in the face, you don’t turn the other cheek. Instead, you sue them. If someone asks for your clothes, you tell them to get a job and don’t take advantage of the welfare system that is set up for them. Strange theology indeed. It’s strange justice in my opinion.
This idea of strange justice was seen at the end of Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son. The older son looks in the window and sees his younger brother at a party thrown for him; a younger brother who had just returned from a life of debauchery and silliness only to be met by the love and grace of his Father. The younger son deserved to be with the pigs, but instead they threw a huge rager for him. How peculiar indeed.
This lack of Grace and Love, this is why people are leaving the church. We hear and read words spoken from the mouth of Jesus, but we hardly see them lived out. Let’s revisit the overall theme of Jesus’ thesis: Love God, Love neighbor. There is nothing there about judging. There is nothing about American justice. There is nothing about politics and who and what to vote for. There is only love – acceptance of people. The acceptance of sinners. Not sin, of course, but sinners. Not the act, but the person.
Now comes the arguement of what about if people keep returning to sin. I say forgive them 77 times. well, not me, but Jesus told us this, and I believe that the number would have kept getting higher and higher if people gave a rebuttal.
And finally, let’s get real: this idea of Grace and Love isn’t easy. There are a lot of people that I really have a hard time with (I sling coffee in the PNW, for crying out loud). But if we are to call ourselves Christ Followers, it is essential. Though our church has become very Pauline in nature (preaching from the epistles more than the words of Jesus), I have a feeling that even Paul may have sided on this side of the arguement.
So, yeah, I see it. I see people leaving the church. I’ve heard the arguments of “isn’t this church that we are having here in my living room with ‘two or more gathered?’” I’ve seen people leave because they felt forgotten, lost, abused, judged, or “insert feeling here”. These people have lost their faith in the Church and it’s leadership and people, but all we can do is hope that they haven’t lost their faith in the Grace and Love of Jesus. The grace and love that he so freely gave all of us when he died on a cross, only to resurrect for the sins of the most dispicable among us: the human race.