Too many of us are acquainted with the word, “backsliding,” which, in its purest form, means to lose one’s resolve to follow a chosen path. A recovering alcoholic who re-enters the bar circuit is an example — surrounding oneself by temptation, and resuming behavior that one is trying to overcome, isn’t a particularly successful business plan.
Within Christianity, backsliding applies, theoretically, to believers who no longer walk the narrow path of following Christ, reading His word, listening to His voice — in essence, being His disciples and serving Him as master. I say theoretically, because in the real life of too many people, backsliding is defined not by God but by other human beings, who establish a system of customized rules for determining what is, and isn’t, a genuine walk with God.
No Church, No God
For example, in many Christians’ eyes, not attending church is a clear sign that one is backsliding since (and this structural phrasing of the argument is extremely common):
“If you really loved God, then you would attend church.” Ergo, that you don’t attend church is evidence that you don’t love God. Alternative options, such as your being tired of the corporate religious system that passes for spirituality these days, and opting to go another way, are impermissible.
Here are some more:
“If you really love God (and are a true Christian),
“You will speak in tongues.”
“You will never doubt. You will never feel fear or anxiety.”
“You will tithe, faithfully, to your church even if you don’t have enough money for groceries this month. That you don’t have enough money is evidence of your lack of faith.”
“You will not sin.”
“You will feel joyful.”
“You will not swear.”
“You will not be tempted to drink, smoke, or break any law found in the Old Testament, or unwritten — but understood — by the ‘Christian community.’”
It goes on, but the upshot is, if you do not adhere to either 1) selective laws of the Old Testament and/or 2) the silent rules and regulations put forth by the voices of authority talking at you once, or more, each week, then you are said to be backslidden. And once you are backslidden, you are considered damned.
The Caressing Hand That Slaps
On the gentler end, backsliders are considered lesser Christians, while the more extreme view (which I fervently hope is rare) is expressed in this excerpt I stumbled upon at a Yahoo Answers site:
“God hates to see people’s back sides, and when He does, He usually gives them a good quick hard stiff KICK in the butt that sends them sprawling back into the slime pit from which they came for another good bellyful of it, hoping they’ll get so sick of it THIS time, they’ll never look back at it again!”
Is it any wonder that people have so much trouble grasping, understanding, hanging onto, and believing in the love of God when we are so adept at distorting it?
“While I had chosen to trust God, to hope rather than despair, fear still reared up inside of me. The practical part of trusting God is hard and takes practice.”
Life. Is. Excruciatingly. Difficult.
The Love, not Hate, of Christ
Every single human being battles individual temptations and life circumstances, armed with an emotional, physical, and spiritual make-up that is unique to each one of us. While Jesus alone is able to get into the soul of another human being, and understand why that person thinks, acts, and lives the way he does, this doesn’t stop us from bursting in, and stating, explicitly, to others, what they must and must not do to be a true follower of Jesus.
This is why we need to read Scripture for ourselves, growing in wisdom and becoming adept in learning what the Word says, thereby freeing ourselves from relying upon others to interpret it for us. I’m sure it’s no surprise that there are a whole lotta wrong interpretations out there.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 11: 28-30. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Our Teacher is gentle, not harsh; meek, not arrogant; forgiving, not delighting in seeing us squirm in the slime pit into which His well-placed kick landed us. When you start reading for yourself, begin with this verse: close your eyes and absorb the meek, gentle, and rest for your souls, part.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I seek to separate truth from myth. Obviously, I’m not infallible, but if being perfect were the requirement for us to embark upon any endeavor, then none of us would be doing anything.
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