I grew up hearing some of the following phrases: make sure you don’t “backslide”; don’t be “deceived”; make sure not to “fall away”; be careful not to “lose your faith.” Do I believe these can actually happen to someone? In a sense, I actually do. Do I think they’re helpful or should be a focal point? No, not really. I believe (on a personal level at least) they are rooted mainly in fear. Thinking back, that’s the kind of emotion these phrases invoke(d) in me.
Does Jesus urge us to be on our guard, to be sober-minded and watchful, to be aware of the swirl of materialism, wealth, selfishness, comfort, godless ideologies, false religion, and rampant darkness that seek to dull–even to steal–our hearts and minds? Yes, he does. But it is damaging to place the fear-inducing burden of “backsliding” and “falling away” and “being deceived” and “losing your faith” on another. Love, empathy, compassion, sacrifice–this is what we are to give one another. It’s simply not our call to define the condition of another’s heart. Yes, the “fruit” of a life is an indicator, but this as a sole focus sometimes excuses us from taking into account the intricacies and subtleties of another person’s journey, of their context and environment and upbringing; it may blind us to the uphill battle of others when we’ve had a plateau or even an easy downhill path into our faith.
While it may appear that you are “ahead” and another is “behind,” who’s to say you haven’t only taken five steps from where you started, and another has gone five miles, even though they appear to still be “behind”? in this sense, somehow who may seem to be “behind” may actually be “ahead,” in terms of how far they’ve come relative to where they started.
And ultimately, it’s just not our call. Show grace, mercy, and love above all else, and leave matters of the heart to God. Only he can see the whole picture, the entire journey.
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