Often times the conversation surrounding deconstructionists (those who have questioned and then left orthodox Christianity) is calloused, arrogant and unloving. As though those who have left the faith are the enemy. Let me remind you they aren’t. They’re people I know and love and am grieved to see stray from God. They went out from us because they were not truly of us.
It hits close to home. I weep when I consider how many people I grew up with who have since departed from orthodox Christianity. Many have rejected the label altogether and others have redefined Christianity to create a god in their own image.
Many of these were peers not just present but performing. They weren’t merely attending Sunday School; they were answering all the questions and reading the Bible in its entirety. They were going on mission trips, giving to the poor, serving the church, etc.
Though it’s not the case for everyone, it seems a common thread that those kids were the ones who were raised in “perfect” homes that were in reality quite messy. They were steeped in hypocrisy, where in public they pretended life was perfect, but at home there were serious problems.
Angry dads who did not love their wives like Christ loves the church, manipulative mothers who idolized perfect marriages and perfect children. Perhaps this doesn’t describe your situation at all – perhaps, your parents were so proud of themselves and their good virtue they really never thought they needed grace at all. Perhaps yours was a home where sin was scandalous and grace and love were earned, not freely given.
These kinds of toxic environments are suffocating*. To perform good works, earn love, earn favor, attain perfection, etc. is too great a burden for anyone to bear. It’s exhausting and soul-crushing.
Dear deconstructed, you had legalism. Not Christ.
There is no delight in the finished work of Christ when you trust your own “perfect works.” There is no peace in God when you constantly strive for an unattainable standard, a perfection that only Christ fulfills.
The gospel is that in Christ though we are fully known, we are also fully justified, fully loved, freely forgiven. There is no work – no service, no perfect life, no Bible reading plan, no rigorous study, no obedience, no zeal or emotional fortitude – that can bring you into the kingdom of Heaven. It is the finished work of Christ alone, accepted by grace alone through faith alone, on the authority of Scripture alone, and to the glory of God alone that any sinner can approach God’s throne.
Perhaps you’re familiar with these 5 Solas – maybe you even won an essay contest or two on their history. You heard this gospel preached, but perhaps not practiced. You were taught truth on one hand, then shoveled works and guilt and shame on the other. The two don’t mesh.
We cannot trust in Christ and works. Our good works flow from Christ’s work in our hearts. They can’t bring us to Him. Otherwise, He died in vain. In Christ, there is no condemnation. In Christ, there is freedom. In Christ, the burden is easy and the yoke is light.
Have you ever considered how sweet and simple this gospel truly is? Just listen to Jesus:
Read that again. Jesus is telling us He is gentle and lowly and that following Him is joyful restful, and light. Amazing isn’t it? This message is unfamiliar to legalists. Hard to swallow.
If you seek God, do not look to the many flaws and faults of others, for you will find them everywhere. Instead, seek Him in His Word, praying for the Spirit to illuminate your mind and heart to truth. That is how we can truly know Him. I pray you find Him anew, this time in truth.
*If you are a parent grieving a wayward child and are guilty of these things, run to Jesus. Confess your failures to Him and to your children and seek forgiveness. Love your children and pray for them. Jesus is very much in the business of saving sinners and His plans are not thwarted by our failures. There are no perfect parents or perfect preachers. But we must take ownership of our mistakes in order to be reconciled to God and others.