Leaving Christianity – Ann Spangler, Christianity.com Blogs
Perhaps you have already tried the church and found that it has nothing to do with the type of community that I have described in the past few weeks. Your church may have felt faint, dysfunctional, or boring.
A bestselling author caused a sensation ten years ago when she made the following statement on her Facebook page: “Today I stopped being a Christian. I'm out. "Anne Rice was fed up with some of the public positions her church held. Later she tried to explain that she still saw herself as the follower of Christ, but wanted nothing to do with the institutional church she believed to be un-Christian and looked carelessly.
It is true that the Church has often stumbled, sometimes terribly, throughout its history. But that's not the whole story. Throughout its long history, the Church has raised the poor and brought healing and salvation to the sick. Where there has been great darkness, it has often brought great light. It is questionable whether Rice offered the Church a necessary corrective or simply overruled her political beliefs. But pretending that you can still be a Christian while leaving Christianity seems insincere. Whether you like it or not, the Church is made up of imperfect people. We are not yet what Jesus calls us to be. This applies to the person who rejects the Church as well as the person who accepts it. That is why God invented forgiveness. That's why he thinks mercy is such a good idea.
Dietrich Bonheoffer pointed out in his classic book Life Together that we are called to pray for each other. If you pray for someone, he said, no matter how much you dislike him, you can no longer judge him. Why? Because Christ is at work praying and transforming an unbearable person into someone for whom he died. Prayer for others helps us see the face of a forgiven sinner – and we are all forgiven sinners.
Maybe someone in the church seriously injured you. Perhaps you have been offended by Christians who are more concerned with political correctness than with the gospel. Or you have met people who are intolerant of anyone who thinks differently from them. No matter who offends you in church, try to pray for them.
As Bonhoeffer said
“Isn't the sinful brother still a brother with whom I also stand under the word of Christ, even if sin and misunderstandings burden community life? Will not his sin be a constant opportunity for me to thank you so that we can both live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? So the hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably healing because it teaches me so thoroughly that none of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by the one word and deed that really hold us together – forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. "1
Bonhoeffer continued that the Christian “has to bear the burden of a brother. He has to suffer and endure the brother. Only when he is a burden does another person really be a brother. “2
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Living Together, translated by John W. Doberstein (New York: Harper & Row, 1990), 28.
- Bonhoeffer, Living Together, 101