Monday, December 11, 2006

Choosing Slavery over Freedom


A comment posted by Colin on the topic of: Don't be shy, tell us how you REALLY feel..., got me to thinking. He said, "I have never been to the point of giving up on God (in fact that smacks of complete immature junior high - or even kindergarten behaviour..."

While I commend Colin for never entertaining the idea of going back on God, however, millions of others have done just that. As a matter of fact, they've retreated so far that they no longer even believe the God they once "worshiped" even exists now. How can such a dramatic 180 degree turn happen in the life of a Christian? I have a theory. It may take me a few moments to fully articulate this theory so please keep reading... :)

First of all, let me say that though I understand there are countless people that once called lived for Jesus, they no longer do. And for some, they have what they believe are valid reasons for such a departure. I however, cannot understand any reason to walk away from Jesus as being a valid reason. Having said that, here is my theory.

God has come to the world and invited his people into a new realm of existence. Remember the Israelites in Egypt? They groaned and complained to God about being slaves, and rehearsed to him the terrible treatment they received at the hands of the Egyptians. They thought God was as cruel as their Egyptian masters since he had allowed them to become slaves. But when the good news came that God had appointed a deliverer for them, and that they were to leave Egypt, putting their slavery behind them, they were not so sure they wanted to leave. After Moses’ first visit to Pharaoh, the people wanted Moses to stop asking him to let them go. They discovered that leaving was difficult. Once they finally left, they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt." NUMBERS 14:4

In the book of Acts, Stephen retells the story. God had said: “I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. . . . But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, "Make us gods who will go before us." ACTS 7:34-40 Remember, that which they were asking of Aaron, in making the golden calf, was one of the gods of the Egyptians.

Why is it many prefer slavery to freedom?

This question is at the heart of the matter. How many times have I seen someone whose life is in shambles? Their life story is one of despair and ruin, yet when the opportunity for a new life is presented to them, they turn away — not because they are not in need of help, but because they cannot imagine what a life of freedom would be like. How many times have I seen someone come to Christ and experience his presence and the glory of forgiveness, only to see them turn back to their old life of bondage because they were familiar with slavery, and freedom carried with it responsibilities and work?

Leaving a life of slavery seems harder than being a slave. The Israelites found their new life difficult and said, "We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost - also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic." NUMBERS 11:5

Can you imagine? Fish and food at no cost? And of all the things to remember and long for! They were thinking of their appetites and remembering the food of Egypt, and forgetting the taskmaster’s whip and back-breaking labor!

I think the best term for this is, NOSTALGIE DE LA BOUE which is a French term meaning, “To yearn for mud: attraction to what is unworthy, crude or degrading.

The Israelites became nostalgic over going to back to the crude and degrading existence they grew weary of in Egypt! Somehow and somewhere down the road, the life of slavery began to appeal to them. In 9 years of pastoring and 22 years of following Jesus, I've seen many people start down the path of freedom only to turn around, give up and go back into the bondage of slavery they came out of! Why? I can't accept the argument that somehow the Church failed them all and that they were so sorely mistreated by "Christians" that they no longer wanted to be part of it anymore. In my own personal experiences of working with people facing difficult issues in life, I have found that 100% of the ones that no longer live for God or even question his existence "went back" because they didn't want to take responsibility and work through their issues.

Going back to the old addictions, the old way, the familiar slavery was more appetizing and much easier than working through those addictions and old ways.

You see, if we're not willing to be honest with ourselves and do the hard work of enduring through persecution, withdraws, temptations and such, we'll find it much easier to just revert back to the bondage we so desperately wanted escape from. It's easy to fall back, it takes effort to push forward.

So why do people walk away from God? Dress it anyway you want, but ultimately we become nostalgie de la boue...

4 comments:

Cindy Harvey said...

Hi Shannon...followed a link from Jamie's blogroll.

I've been pondering the idea of christians rejecting their faith for awhile now. In fact, I have come extremely close to doing so myself during the last couple years. I also have a dear friend who has become an agnostic recently.

While I agree many forgo the 'narrow way' because a lifestyle of slavery is easier or at least more familiar...my experience has been different. I became despondent (still am at times) over the christians I know who refuse to look at life's ickiness and its incongruencies with honesty...preferring instead to disengage and isolate, label stuff with christianese ("that's'from Satan'!"), or simply detach from reality completely and live in la-la land. I found my deep questions were laughed at, ignored, or got me labelled as having 'issues with authority'. I didn't want to go back to Egypt...I wanted out of Egypt in the church.

For many of my non christian friends (and I have lots of 'em) the biggest stumbling block to taking a serious look at Jesus is those who say they follow him and can't carry on a normal conversation. For those I know who have left christianity, they often (like me) simply cannot tolerate being associated with 'Judgemental homophobics' (See Barna's Revolution). I guess I had to abandon 'church' to ask the hard questions, wrestle with the inconsistencies, deal with the shame and fear that surrounded my faith, and all that crap in order to discover Jesus outside the evangelical paradigm.

I'm currently attending a very small, traditional Mennonite congregation. No cool music, no hip 20-somethings, no 'third place' meeting place, no designer coffee. Just some old folks still trying to make the world a better place, present themselves to God, and enjoy life. We went to sing cheesy carols to the congregation's shut-in members. Most churches I've attended aren't old enough to have a shut-in ministry!

So, yes, many will chicken out on the requirements of following Jesus and high-tail it back to Egypt...but some of us have difficulty separating Jesus from his followers. And I totally understand that POV. It's still a struggle for me.

Shannon said...

Cindy,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I hear in you some of what I and countless others have dealt with to some degree. I understand your grief with todays evangelical paradigm and am glad that you haven't decided to reject your faith as you stated in your comment.

I understand that much of the "evangelical paradigm" that exists today is tainted and isn't remotely close to what Jesus is about. However, I can't wrap my brain around the concept of rejecting my faith due to this screwed up "evangelical paradigm" as it were. I can't connect to that. The reality is, there will always be those "Christians" that refuse to look at life's ickiness and its incongruencies with honesty. I personally cannot allow that to affect my relationship with God.

I guess what I'm saying, without any intentional harm, is that if a person can truly walk away from faith in God as a result of mere people, they weren't following too closely to Jesus in the first place.

I'm reminded of John 6 toward the end of the chapter. Jesus had been teaching in a Synagogue in Capernaum and some of the things he said were very difficult to receive much less understand. As a result, the Bible tells us in verse 66, "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him." The Jesus looked at the twelve and asked them in verse 67, “Do you want to go away as well?” To which Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

In this passage it is very obvious that a clear revelation of who Jesus is will not easily be rejected or abandoned due to the failings of people or organizations or doctrines or whoever or whatever source.

I don't have to like the evangelical paradigm that is prevalent in many churches today, but that fact it is fractured and faulty isn't going to cause my faith to waiver in the person of Jesus Christ. I hope I didn't read too much into your comment but this is the idea I got when you said, "...I have come extremely close to doing so myself during the last couple years."

I truly hope that God can restore your faith in Him beyond the failures of organizational religion and faulty perceptions of arrogant church.

I hope I've made sense with all of this :)

colin said...

I tried to leave a comment on this posting earlier on in the day, but once again I had trouble with the word verification etc. Either that, or when it finally came through you censored it :).

I was just making a comment on how my original comment read, in retrospect, a lot differently than I intended it to. What my comment was supposed to suggest is that no matter how far away I have strayed I have never been able to intelligently discount the existence of God (as atheists would claim to do). I think I would have liked to have done this - it would have made my vagrancy a lot less tumultuous.

Most of what I read on the site you linked us to spoke more of bitterness than rationality. Of course we still need to listen to what people are saying through this type of speech.

The fact is, like you seemed to be pointing out, we as Christians need to be aware of how our actions help establish others' perceptions of God. Our tendency towards occasional hypocrisy really has the power to detrimentally trip others faith into oblivion. That indeed is scary.

Shannon said...

Colin,

I absolutely agree that our actions need to be considered as to how we portray Christ to this world. I also hold that the Church or Christians cannot be ultimately held responsible for the departure of faith in some people's lives all of the time. If a person is "deceived" into believing a lie, then we've committed a terrible trespass but if the truth hurts and it does, or we simply don't like the current model of "church", I don't find these excuses valid reasons for rejecting ones faith. I would argue that that individuals faith was lacking to begin with and they found a way out and took it. I would also add that I think the vast majority of the departures from faith are for reasons similar to the latter.