You see them all over town — empty, vacant, hollow and haunted-looking. Of what am I speaking? The now darkened and deserted houses that dot the town’s geography where formerly happy families once lived, laughed, loved, played and worked? No. I speak of something far more sinister, saddening, and soul-wrenching. I speak of the empty, hollow, haunted and hounded look in the now spiritually dead and lifeless eyes of some of the once faithful but now fallen away brethren of the Lord’s church; those whom, as one brother recently commented in bible class, now have “that” look. Those who once lived, laughed, loved and served the Lord fervently, as they walked in and reflected His light to the lost world around them; but who now suddenly skulk and scurry away, back into the shadowy darkness of their new-found sudden distress, at the approach of any of His servants and children of Light (See: Ephesians 5:8–17). These are the so sadly spiritually dead; the walking and upright spiritual zombies of today who have retreated and returned back into the shadowy and sin-filled darkness of the ‘dead in their sins’ world; a world of darkness which scripture describes in desperate, definitive, and devastating detail (See: Luke 9:57–62, Ephesians 2:1–3, and 2 Peter 2:12–22).
Now, it breaks my heart and brings sorrow to my soul when I stop to consider the unbelievably tragic, terrible, and torturous eternity that these formerly faithful brethren have chosen for themselves by their failure to stay faithful to the Lord, His word, and His church (Hebrews 10:19–39). And so, as a matter of self-preservation and spiritual survival, I have had to learn, come to understand, and try to implement in my own life, some other spiritual truths relevant to their painful and self-chosen return to the world, so that I don’t get so overwhelmed by sadness and sorrow that I sink as well. And so, here are some truths that I would subsequently now like to share with you as well, in order to help ensure your own survival in such tragic circumstances.
To begin with, as is so often the case when formerly faithful and fired-up brethren suddenly fall or choose to walk away and rejoin the world of the spiritually dead (Lk. 9:59–60), just like those nearing physical death, they often become very non-responsive. Heartbroken and now suddenly-forsaken spiritual family members who, in most cases, have done absolutely nothing wrong, unloving, unscriptural or deserving of such desertion whatsoever — any more than their now also deserted Savior — can write, call, text, tweet, e-mail, send cards, seek to visit, and make all manner of loving and concerned effort to contact and revive them — but all to no avail. There will be ‘no voice, no one will answer, and no one will pay attention’ (cf: 1 Kgs. 18:29) to the faithful’s pleadings. And even if the still faithful child of God should happen to encounter their now fallen away brethren at the local supermarket, sporting event, or other venue, those now choosing to walk in the darkness once again will often turn away and seek to avoid contact with those still walking in the light at all cost. And when they do, the faithful are often both stunned and devastated! We don’t understand how one can so suddenly be so repulsed by the very Christian love and kindness they so recently embraced! But this response makes absolutely perfect sense when you really stop and think about it — and it does so on several different levels!
For example, stop and consider: If you or I were to choose to willfully walk away from the most incredible, unbelievable, eternally and infinitely powerful and wonderful blessings that the great God and Creator of this entire universe and plane of existence could ever possibly provide (Ephesians 1–3; Romans 5 + 8); if we were to choose to trade away our blood-purchased, perfect and perpetual eternal inheritance, for a sinful sip of soul-searing, soul-shattering, and soul-destroying soup of self-indulgence (cf. Genesis 25:29–34; Hebrews 12:14–17), well, we’d probably be overcome by our own guilt and shame too, wouldn’t we? Of course we would! And so, we must understand that this is precisely where they are and where they’re coming from when they turn away and won’t even speak to or acknowledge us in public! In their return to the darkness, they simply can’t stand to see or be in the presence of those of us who are still walking in the Father’s light and favor which they have so fatally, foolishly, and frivolously frittered away — even though many of them will never admit it, even to themselves! But we know. And how do we know? Because of the immutable and invincible light which God’s word sheds on the subject. That light of God’s word: which the faithful respect while the faithless reject; the faithful learn from, while the faithless leave from; and which the faithful strive to keep walking in, while the faithless seek to keep running from (Psalm 119:105)!
Look again, long and hard, at what Jesus said in John 15:18–25. He said that the world would surely hate those of us who kept on following Him, simply because the world hated Him whom we seek to keep on following! We can’t follow in Jesus’ foot-steps on the trail He blazed, without encountering some of the same pitfalls of that narrow path He traveled! That’s what Jesus Himself told us in John 15!
He also said there that the world would hate Him without a cause — and so too would they do to those of us who would continue to follow Him. We don’t necessarily have to do anything wrong, or in any way deserving of such deliberate distancing of the faithless from us. We don’t necessarily have to do anything deserving of any of the other, assorted, avoidance responses from some of the now fallen away, out-of-service, and back in the world of sin and darkness brethren which some would constantly blame and/or berate us for either. Jesus didn’t. That’s precisely Jesus’ point in John 15:18–25! All we have to do is to continue to obediently walk in the light of God’s word, still seeking to live our lives in as righteous and holy an upright manner as is absolutely possible, still walking in the light of our loving Lord and only Savior! And just like Jesus with the disobedient, unfaithful and rebellious world of His day, even our occasional presence in their lives serves as far more than enough of a constant annoyance and unwanted reminder of the fact to those brethren who have now re-entered the world of spiritual darkness, that “they have no excuse for their sin” (vs. 22) — none! And they certainly don’t want to be reminded of that, ever! And so, some seek to avoid us at all cost. It’s seldom, if ever any more complicated than that.
We have got to understand: It’s not that we’ve necessarily done anything wrong, or perhaps in any way mistreated or failed to love them — in fact, quite to the contrary! It’s the fact that we’re still seeking to daily live, love, and walk in the light of God’s word and presence — and that they’re not — that’s the problem! They can’t stand to be exposed to the light any longer because their deeds have once again become evil! Hear Jesus’ own words in John 3:19–21: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Please remember that passage’s perfect and powerful truth the next time a formerly-faithful but now fallen away member of the Lord’s church does everything in their power to turn away, display their disgust, and/or take immediate and evasive maneuvers to avoid you in public at all cost; or, the next time you reach out in Christ-like love and concern, only to encounter nothing other than stifling silence in return from those who have once again returned to the world; those spiritually-dead, spiritually-lifeless, spiritual zombies who are seeking to scurrilously scurry undetected and unexposed even further back into the dark and shadowy crevasses of their own self-chosen path of spiritual darkness. Pray for them. Cry for them. Love, reach out, and hurt for them — no matter how they may treat you in return! Maybe someday such prodigals will see their need and way to return home. We hope so!!!
BUT IN THE MEANTIME: you must never allow yourself to become so burdened and bewildered by the grief of their loss, and be so subsequently overcome with sorrow, that you also, eventually give up on the good fight and join them — Satan would love that! Instead, as far as their obviously scripturally-confirming current condescension is concerned when it comes to you and your Christ-like love, attitude, and outreach towards them: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22–23).