Where is the grace?
I wrote a previously about this trend of culturally relevant Christians “falling away” from their faith. This hasn’t stopped. I don’t expect it to stop. The recent events with Jerry Falwell Jr. have lead many to question where his faith is. Before that, Jonathan Steingard of the popular Christian band Hawk Nelson announced he’s no longer a Christian.
These things can be really difficult for Christians. For some, it may not seem that difficult, but for many it is. If you’re like me, you may have looked up to famous Christians when you were younger. I grew up in the church and immersed in the evangelical Christian subculture. I remember looking up to popular Christian authors, musicians, and pastors. When you’re young you don’t know any better. When you’re young you think they should be perfect. In many ways, they validate your own beliefs and values.
This is natural. People do it all the time in many walks of life. When I was a kid I’d play wiffle ball and baseball with my friends. We’d pretend to be the All-Stars of the day. I probably pretended to be Ryne Sandberg more than any other player. I’d step up to the bat and try to swing like he did. I never got close. As I got older I realized I wasn’t bound for a professional baseball career. I still watched the Cubs and still looked up to the players.
I remember the infamous steroid era of baseball. For many fans, that was the end. They couldn’t watch it anymore. They couldn’t spend time and money like they once did on a game that seemed less than genuine. I get it. It’s natural to feel that way. Many of the players are unofficially banned from the game. Many have offered apologies.
Why would the fans take it so hard? They weren’t the one’s playing the games. Their records weren’t being questioned. Their careers weren’t in jeopardy. It’s because we like to look up to people. We like to believe that those who have acquired something we couldn’t are better than we are. We wrap up some of our identity and values in other people. When they fail (and they always will) we feel some pain from that failure.
We’ve done the same with Christian celebrities. When they fall, we fell some pain too. We invested ourselves in their books, youtube videos, songs, and sermons. Those things were a part of our faith journey and we see them as a part of our identity. When these people fail, we question our own faith. We question the things they wrote that had an impact on us, or the words they sang. We realize the moments we worshiped listening to their music and begin to wonder if it was all manufactured and fake.
Many of us get angry. We get mad at those who didn’t live up to our seemingly impossible expectations. The words of Peter come to mind? We are devastated because they couldn’t carry a burden that even we couldn’t bear ourselves. You don’t need to spend too much time on social media to see the hurt, hatred, and frustration. Tweets and comments fill up fast with disappointment. And my heart breaks. And I believe Jesus’ heart breaks.
Where is the grace? There’s some of it that floats around. Not all comments and reactions are overly negative or hateful. But many are. Shouldn’t the most amount of grace come from those who are claiming to follow Christ?
I’m not saying that we overlook the reality of the situation. I’m not saying we should go and tell these people not to worry about their faith or their relationship with God. But our first reaction can’t be one of anger or violent evangelism. Our first reaction should be to try and see their pain. What brought them to this place? Whatever that pain is, Jesus wants to heal it. We need to look at these people as dearly beloved of Christ, not hover over their Instagram like social media vultures.
The good news is this, while we were still living in sin, Christ died for our forgiveness. When we have been far from God, He always stretched His hand toward us. He is still reaching for these who have “fallen away.” They are not out of His reach. They are not too far gone. They deserve the same grace that has set us free in Christ.
So please, my sisters and brothers, go in the peace and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the farthest reaches of the digital realm and reflect that grace which has brought you to freedom so that the same grace may pour out into lives of others and free them as well.