There is always an anticipation and excitement in the magic of Christmas. It’s a family holiday and a time when we get to lavish love on the precious people in our lives. Especially during this time of the year, as I’m thinking about the people in my life and the church family I want to celebrate, I struggle looking at my Christmas list and pictures from the year before.
The truth is, I will never understand why people leave a church home and are vocal about the fact that they’re leaving (for reasons not pertaining to any moral failing). I also don’t understand why other members of the church they’ve left are okay with hanging out, talking casually with, or continuing in deep relationship with a person who spurned the people they love. Doesn’t anyone else chafe at unfaithfulness, disloyalty, and dissension anymore??
I’ve heard reasons like: #1 “Oh I had to leave because I disagreed with this or that…” Seriously? Disagreement is life! How shallow are we if we’re willing to walk away from relationships when we don’t see eye-to-eye? Whatever happened to Biblical reconciliation and caring enough to talk with each other and find resolution? If we don’t, are we really the “ministers of reconciliation” that we’re called to be? (2 Cor. 5:11-21) Are we even true followers of Christ if we choose the coward’s way out by “cutting-and-running”?
#2″I felt God leading me elsewhere…” Does God lead people out of an environment where they are loved and growing unless it’s to plant another ministry that’s in unity with their home church and family? I don’t see that anywhere in scripture, do you? And even in the scenario of a “plant,” it’s not leaving, it’s building – everyone agrees and is excited! Each visit is a long-anticipated reunion where we talk about the goodness of God, not an awkward meeting where we don’t discuss church!
#3 “I can make new friends…” This depends on what you consider a friend. Only a true friend, who knows you well, will tell you what you don’t want to hear because they’re anxious to see you blessed and growing spiritually. If we can’t receive nurturing accountability from people who love us, then we will never have true, lasting friends. In the end, we will be very much alone. Lack of commitment is a systemic failing of our culture and is the antithesis of everything we claim to be if we say we’re a follower of Jesus Christ.
For the rest of us, are we so anxious to be understanding and accommodating of people’s issues that we aren’t willing to love a person into right behavior and unity that will bless them and us with continued growing relationships as a functioning part of the church? If we enable a person’s issues or venting of frustrations instead of encouraging them to make things right, how does this bless them? How can there be deep, loyal relationships, growth, training, and accountability in a family if people just get offended and leave and no one says anything about it?? Whatever happened to doing things by The Book – actually applying scripture to the situation instead of doing what we feel and just bailing or allowing someone to bail without consequences?! (Matthew 18) Where’s the reconciliation and the faithfulness that makes church a family and a home? This is what Christmas is all about to me.
I don’t know what anyone else is praying for this Christmas but I’m praying for my lost church family, those I still love but can’t celebrate with this year. There is still hope in the humility of Jesus’ birth and the salvation of His sacrifice for us, if we’re willing to receive and apply His life to ours. Despite the painful reminders of our humanity during an idealistic season, we celebrate a greater, heavenly reality in a future with Emmanuel, One who will never leave us, this Christmas.