It’s not easy to watch iconic Christian leaders crumble. I was particularly impacted (for better or for worse, but that’s a discussion for another time) by Joshua Harris as a teenager, and his public renunciation of his faith in Jesus Christ left me with a lot to process about my own roots in the Church and journey with Jesus.
Some of it is not easy. Like one hundred percent of church-attending Christians, I have experienced pain there, pain that has been inflicted on me by other believers. That’s sad, but that’s life until the King returns - we will hurt each other.
Like ninety percent of church-raised children, I have been very sure of what I believe until the day came that I wasn’t. I have experienced doubts and fears, and that’s hard, but that’s life until the King returns - faith is not yet sight.
And like an untold number of Christians in this age, I have wondered what it means to love others and tell them how lost they are at the same time, when it feels like the only voices speaking are those of self-worshiping license or self-powered hypocrisy. That’s a wild pendulum to ride, but it also seems to be the ride of choice, because it’s always easier to shout from an extreme than to dodge the hazards of interpersonal nuance.
I don’t know the whole story of why Joshua Harris left the faith. I would imagine that immense pain, doubts, and exhaustion helped to pave the way.
And there is just one passage of Scripture that keeps echoing in my mind:
“… The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to Him from the Father.”
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
I think there’s room in following Jesus to acknowledge that others on the journey sometimes hurt us - and sometimes excruciatingly so. I think He is gracious and understanding with our biggest, scariest doubts. I think the complicated messiness of trying to love people enough to not leave them in their sin is something we all get tired of after awhile.
But I will not turn off His way, because honestly - to whom would I go? It is He who holds eternal life - the Holy One of God.
A mentor and friend recently inspired me to imagine what my life would be, right now, without Jesus - and what I saw in that imaginary world made me so thankful that I don’t live there.
Without Jesus, there would be no refuge from the misery of sin, guilt, and shame. I would live with those ugly entities for all of my days. I’m an over-thinker and a people-pleaser, and it is only Jesus who sets me free from the unnecessary burdens I often carry - and even redeems the necessary ones with His blood. Only Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Without Jesus, all the good relationships I treasure would evaporate, from my marriage and my family to my closest friends and spiritual mentors. Yes, I’ve been hurt in the community of the faith, but I’ve also found healing there. Perhaps there would be other relationships, but none with the iron strength of bonds wrought in Christ’s blood.
Without Jesus, where would this deep-thinking, endlessly-learning spiritual seeker find her rest? God made me with too much thirst for what is real and true to be satisfied in the vanities that other philosophies can offer. I would have spent my life searching and yet returned void, hopeless, despairing.
My view of Christianity is not rosy or naive. I am the first to challenge and question any idea, belief, or tradition that is presented as truth, and I am not afraid to acknowledge the incredible harm that some individuals in some churches have done. I’m against hiding sin, sweeping pain under the rug, telling people to band-aid their wounds with more Jesus, or rebuking doubts. I don’t think there’s a right denomination or a right translation of the Bible or a black side and a white side to every moral issue.
But I do know that there is nowhere to turn for what fills the void in the human soul except Jesus.