The social media was on fire. A prominent Christian musician stepped down from his leadership position for a large and popular evangelical Christian church stating that he no longer believed in Jesus Christ. His supporters rallied around him and committed to pray for him while his detractors lambasted his years of hypocrisy.
On his social media sites, many of his supporters posted some variation of, “You will always have a home in our church.” It was touching and one point was clear, neither his church nor other members were preventing him from leaving. He had reached his own conclusion after months of deliberation. I prayed that whatever the issues that caused him to turn away from God would someday be resolved and he would return to fellowship.
His experience sharply contrasted with my own before I became a Christian. In college, I was involved in a cult, one that preached the doctrine of universalism, that all religions were different paths to the same god. There are many definitions of a cult and while one can quote a dictionary, a disturbing hallmark of the majority of cults is their refusal to allow its members to leave. Fearful that former members would disclose secrets about the organization, a coordinated smear campaign and intimidation are often instigated. The former members, fearful of retribution against themselves and other family members, are silenced into submission.
You can’t leave a cult. I know. I left the cult I was involved with for one year when God’s grace and mercy led to me to confess and repent of my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I informed the leader of my departure without explaining the reason why. She smiled smugly and patronizingly patted me on my head and said, “Yes, you may go.” While there was no attempt to stop me, the verbal harassments immediately began. My peers who were part of the cult no longer associated with me and slandered my reputation to mutual acquaintances. My father who remained a part of this cult was also not spared and was increasingly harassed by the leadership. Members who saw my father as their dentist, left. In social circles, he was disinvited to events when he was previously welcomed. Eventually, my father left the cult, disgusted with their antics and pettiness. Even after leaving, the verbal harassment continued as members sought to destroy his professional reputation with other dentists and professionals in the community.
But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
1 Corinthians 7:15 (NKJV)
The Bible recognizes that not all who hear the Good News of Jesus Christ will readily accept His offer of salvation and eternal life. This passage from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church was directed to the situation when an unbelieving spouse may leave a marriage where the partner is a believer in Jesus Christ. Yet it is applicable to anyone who leaves the fellowship of the Church.
The key phrase is “God has called us to peace.” There is no harassment, public shaming, or retribution. While it is always a tragic situation for someone to walk away from God, the Church is called to continue to love and pray for this member. Jesus Christ always extends His grace and mercy to all sinners, seeking reconciliation. We, as redeemed sinners through Jesus Christ, should do the same.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.