|Volume 21 Number 10 October 2019||
I’ve been concerned for many years about why members become unfaithful. One verse that keeps coming to mind is Luke 9:62, which reads, “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.‘” The setting for this verse has to do with individuals offering excuses when the Lord wanted them to follow Him. When I was a youngster, my grandfather, John Smith, was teaching me to use one of those old-fashioned push plows for his garden. He put the stakes in the ground and put a string from one end to the other of his plot. His instructions included keeping my eyes straight ahead. Looking in another direction meant crooked rows. Isn’t that the way it is with life? If we take our eyes off God’s Word or Jesus, our lives become crooked. My grandfather saw some crooked rows because I didn’t keep my eyes straight ahead. That meant that I had to start over.
With this in mind, I would like to go in another direction from the viewpoint of members who are faithful and their feelings regarding those who leave. People become unfaithful for various reasons, and none of them are valid. We may never understand why they really leave. When people leave the fellowship, how do they think that makes members who remain feel? What are the faithful to think when other members no longer want to be a part of the fellowship?
Not long ago, I was accused of being mean-spirited when I told someone that I was disappointed in the decisions that he had made. First of all, does it not grieve God at His heart that individuals have departed? Is it not true that it grieves members too? Secondly, members feel that they may have done something to cause the person to leave, or that he or she doesn’t care about those remaining.
If we grieve the Holy Spirit by our actions, then surely God is grieved (Ephesians 4:30). One who leaves fails to realize the loss the membership feels when he leaves. Members begin asking what we did to cause him to leave. Individuals who become unfaithful not only hurt their God, but they hurt members of God’s family as well. Is it not important to have great family relationships? Most would answer, “Yes.”
This is not the end, however. God has made it possible for these individuals to be reconciled (made friends again). Do those who have become unfaithful want to be reconciled to God and to family? What does it take? Second Corinthians 5 gives us the means of reconciliation. It reads, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died: and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” It seems to be that those who have become unfaithful have taken their eyes off the proper focus. Their lives have become crooked. They need their lives going in a straight path (Luke 9:62). Notice in this verse that they are “no longer to live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
What does it take for you to be reconciled to God today? Are you willing to take the necessary steps to do so? Give some thought to how the family of God feels because you have decided to leave it.
Anchored to the Unchangeable
It is a truism how things change through the course of time, whether we speak of consumables, such as the products we buy, durable goods, etc., to those values that make up how society functions. For example, in the past, the greatest concerns in school classrooms were matters like “students chewing gum, having their homework prepared” and similar responses. In our age it has changed to “guns and violence, drugs, lack of discipline, confusion about identity and one’s place in society” and other matters.
Science theories and beliefs have also changed. What was expected, for example, in the matters of climate and the environment in times past, has not happened as anticipated. Recently, a list of five environmental claims in the not so distant past were compared to current conditions. They were, (1) a population explosion would cause global famine by 2000 (predicted in 1970), (2) air pollution would be so bad that everyone who lived in a city would have to wear gas masks to survive (predicted in 1970), (3) entire nations would be destroyed by 1999 (predicted in 1989), (4) the polar ice caps would have entirely melted away by 2016 (predicted in 2009) and (5) the earth would dramatically warm and then cool, sending the planet into another ice age starting in 1978 (predicted in 1958).
Culture is always changing, and in our time at a radical and accelerated rate. What is acceptable today may not be tomorrow. Similarly, what may be pushing the limits of society ethically and morally today may seem bland by tomorrow’s standards. How do we cope with such rapid changes? How can we know right from wrong in the midst of an evolving culture?
We must anchor ourselves to Him who never changes, who is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The Lord will prevail (Matthew 16:18), and God’s eternal Word is forever the pattern and source of life for the church (1 Peter 1:23-25). God’s Word reveals to us what must never change (the plan of salvation, the pattern of work, worship and leadership in the church, avoiding the works of the flesh, growing in the fruit of the spirit, among others). It also provides the foundation and principles to guide us through change, to make wise decisions, no matter the culture. The question is, “Will we listen to the fickle and fallible opinions of human beings so prone to change?” or “Will we listen to Him Who is eternal, Who never changes, Who provides for all our needs, today and eternally?“
The Bible is as fresh and relevant today as when the inspired writers penned it. It applies to life, and it offers stability in any cultural circumstance or change we may face. Let us trust it, know it and live it. May we rejoice that, no matter how mild or wild the world around us is, in Him we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).