If you don’t follow Christian authors and news, perhaps you’re not familiar with the name Joshua Harris. In 1997, he wrote a book called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” In it he instructed young Christians in how he thought they ought to live a life of holiness. It was all the rage in Evangelical churches back then.
Fast forward a couple decades and things have really changed. Just recently, Harris announced that his 21-year long marriage is ending and that he is no longer part of the Christian faith (he was a pastor).
It’s easy to sit back and judge from the outside. There’s something natural in our flesh (human-ness) that revels in seeing exalted people fall. If you’re not familiar with my favorite word ever, look up schadenfreude. So I’m trying hard not to find pleasure in the downfall of someone with whom I really disagreed in theology and praxis. And, while it’s easy to think of jokes about Harris and easy comparisons to kissing and Judas, at my core I think I’m more saddened by the whole situation.
It’s tragic any time a Christian falls away from the faith. The fact is that none of us know a person’s heart or way of thinking. The Bible makes it clear that there will be “Christians” who leave. John warned the Church about this almost 2,000 years ago:
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:18-19).
Jesus’s famous “parable of the sower” in Mark 4 goes like this:
The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
Ultimately it comes down to this: it’s not our place to “save people.” God alone works on the hearts of humanity. Not everyone who claims to be part of the faith is going to make it to the end. That is tragic. Jesus’s words seek to comfort us when we see people respond poorly to the gospel (or not respond at all). Since we do not know how every story will end up, we can take a breath and relax – we don’t have to work on people’s hearts. All we have to do is be faithful to God’s call on our lives. Yes, this includes sharing with people the hope that we have in God and what our faith means to us (that dreaded word EVANGELISM), but we don’t have to take it personally when people reject the gospel.
All we’re called to do is follow God as best we can and trust Him to do the rest.
I don’t know how Joshua Harris’s story will end. He might reconcile with his wife and return to Jesus. He might never reconcile but still return to Jesus. He might stay apostate the rest of his days. Only God knows, so I’ll try to tamp down the judgment and simply pray for him and his family.
May God’s grace and mercy cover us all and keep us close to him.
What do you think? What’s your gut reaction when famous Christians “fall away” from faith? Have you ever experienced a “deconstruction of faith?” Do you wonder why I use so many quotation marks??? Share your story in the comments and share the article on social media. 🙂