When a Christian walks away from the pale of orthodoxy there is shrapnel. When that Christian is a leader or influencer the shrapnel is greater, sharper, farther reaching. If you’ve been in church for more than a day, you’ve been hurt by such shrapnel. You’ve witnessed a pastor fail and you’ve wondered how to ask your friend why she’s never there anymore. We are the body of Christ and when one part decides it no longer wants unity with the rest of us, it hurts.
It hurts especially when a leader or friend rejects the truth that they have personally taught you. Those of us who are committed to the Word of God and 2,000 years of orthodox interpretation of it are left angry and sad.
I had a dear friend in high school who seemed to walk closely with Jesus. I was entrenched in the world at the time, but she would invite me to youth group, tell me she was praying for me, and take advantage of quiet moments to remind me of God’s love and the forgiveness offered to me through Jesus. In my first year at college I fully surrendered to the Lord and found deep joy in Him. When I returned from my freshman year, my friend and I had dinner together. It was then that she told me that she no longer believed. I felt shocked and betrayed and confused.
When she walked away from the pale of orthodoxy, after teaching it to me, it hurt.
This past week Christian women in North America have either applauded or gasped at the departure from the pale of orthodoxy of one our beloved leaders. I have been receiving messages all day—the shrapnel is flying. What do I think, many women are asking me. Where do I stand? Well, I stand on the side of scripture. The Bible is not unclear.
But I also stand in sober self-awareness that this leader, like my friend from high school, had seemed to walk closely with God. Both ladies, at one time, seemed to cherish the Word of God and both had a faith that produced fruit. Both were women I admired.
The story of Jen Hatmaker and the story of my friend sober me. How does a woman treasure the Word and then depart from it?
In his book, For the Love of God, theologian DA Carson says this:
People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
May the shrapnel sober us and spur us. May we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus…let us hold true to what we have attained…for many walk as enemies of the cross of Christ…but our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:14-20).