Why many leave the faith
Thousands of young people across the country are walking away from the faith of their childhood. Some feel bored by it, some feel morally restricted by it, some have never given a thought to taking it seriously.
But still others, and perhaps a majority, can’t bring themselves to believe in the God that is imagined by many Western evangelicals. This God feels too harsh, too hateful, too ethnocentric, and the bible feels too closed minded and antiquated to be a true representation of a loving God.
My brother walked away from his faith, in part for these reasons. The conservative evangelical voter bracket that threw their support towards Donald Trump in 2016, despite his deep moral failures and lack of qualification, made him embarrassed and regretful of being associated with evangelical Christianity. This was added on top of a growing intellectual skepticism he had been facing, and eventually being a Christian didn’t make sense to him anymore.
Perhaps this, or something similar, is your experience.
Perhaps it has nothing to do with politics, but instead has to do with scripture. Perhaps the violence we see of God in scripture makes you uneasy and unsure if you believe in him. I’ve talked with many people who have experienced these feelings.
The Image of God
In this post, I want to point out that you are made in the image of God. Part of what that means is that you have some of the same emotions, priorities, and feelings he does. Of course, sin alters or distorts some of those, but the essence of his image is still in all of us.
So if we have some of the same emotions and priorities that God does, perhaps when something makes you uneasy, it also makes him uneasy. Perhaps it is really true that when we look in the mirror, we see something of God. God’s very being is etched into our hearts.
So our instincts really can be similar to his.
Genesis 1:27 says that “God fashioned the human in his own image; in God’s image he made him. Male and female he made them.” (my translation)
There is a molding and shaping that the language (bara’ in Hebrew) implies here. It is deeply personal. Picture a sculptor pressing her thumb into the clay, carefully fashioning every part. This is how we are created. We reflect God on a deeply personal level.
God’s way is on our hearts
Romans 2:15 says that when non-Jews do what the law requires, “they show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness.”
So on the hearts of all people is the way of the Lord. What does this mean when something about God himself makes us uneasy? Well, it could mean that we are thinking about God the wrong way. J.D. Greear at the Summit Church just gave a sermon last week called “You don’t get your own personal Jesus,” in which he expertly pointed out that we can’t just make God be what we want him to be. That is a mark of sinful nature.
However, it may also be that when we hear someone else tell us something about God, or when we see something in scripture, we are in fact reflecting God’s own heart when it makes us uneasy.
Violence makes God uneasy.
Hatred makes God uneasy.
Rape makes God uneasy.
Slow down, remember who made you
So when these things make us uneasy, it is not because we have a false view of God, but in fact a deeply correct one. This doesn’t mean we can pick and choose which parts of the true God we accept and reject. That would be worshiping ourselves, and not God.
This simply means that when we come across something in American Christianity, or even in scripture, that seems to contradict what we feel is deeply right, such as the value of human life and the dignity of unconditional love, we should slow down and recognize that we’re made in God’s image and we deeply love the same things he does, so there must be more to the picture.
That’s my encouragement today.
Don’t walk away from God because you don’t like what other people say about him. Don’t walk away from the Old Testament because it makes you uneasy.
Slow down, take a closer look, and remember who made you. And maybe you’ll see the patience of God and love of God in a new way through his willingness to work salvation in a people as messed up as we are.