Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Leaving the Church As the Failure of Spiritual Common Sense

Me, with some of our church's youth
I know a person who left church after church because they couldn't stand what was going on in church, and were angry at the church and hurt by the church. So they left, and never went back.

The day they left church was the day they also left love, grace, hope, the spiritual gifts, and the virtuous fruit of the Spirit. When they left church they left it all. This is because, as Eugene Peterson puts it:

"Love cannot exist in isolation: away from others, love bloats into pride. Grace cannot be received privately: cut off from others it is perverted into greed. Hope cannot develop in solitude: separated from the community, it goes to seed in the form of fantasies. No gift, no virtue can develop and remain healthy apart from the community of faith. "Outside the church there is no salvation" is not ecclesiastical arrogance but spiritual common sense, confirmed in everyday experience. Whenever persons attempt to live in defiance of it they are attenuated and impoverished. Submitting to it they are generously rewarded." (Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, 43)

The Christian who leaves church has lost their first love, assuming they had it in the first place, which is, precisely, agape-love for God and for others. The lampstand is gone; the light goes out and a life merges into the darkness from whence it came.