Christianity may have felt its raddest, from my nostalgic point of view anyway, when mewithoutYou, Magnified Plaid, Spirit-filled Hardcore, and youth groups by the thousands flocked to summer festival after festival. Was I giving my all for Jesus, or was the "Christian" emo/punk/metal movement thriving to the point of shared, "secular" emo/punk/metal popularity?
Looking a little further back, Jesus had a cult following 2,000 years ago, until he went all kinds of vampire-cannibal on His tribe.
“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’” - John 6:53
There were a few anti-bands I worked with who may have unexpectedly, accidentally thinned their crowds, but Jesus deliberately chose hard words over maximized, non-committed masses.
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” - John 6:66
Jesus died, and now lives, so we could eat His flesh and drink His blood.
“You are what you eat” is how the saying goes.
When Jesus is through being culturally cool, and our dear, beautiful, amazing friends are unfollowing Him, how do those of us still clinging to the hope of Christ respond?
Here’s how NOT
to respond (in three easy steps):
1. Talk about your friend behind their back.
(One of the criticisms we received on the recent Provoke & Inspire podcast # 87
is that this is what we did to my friend Spencer. Though certainly not my heart's intention, in retrospect, it would have been 100% better to have talked with him and not about him.)
2. Discredit your friend's experience, claims, or story.
3. Assume your friend is too liberal, Republican, lost, hipster, whatever, to re-surrender.
Three much harder steps to respond with:
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if you've done anything to intentionally/unintentionally hurt your friend, especially if that "something" may have helped lead them away from Jesus.
2. Genuinely apologize for whatever comes to your heart, even if it seems 13 years too late. If no wrong was committed, then openly talk with your friend to fully understand what is happening in their hearts. Let them know how much you love and care for them, regardless of their current faith/anti-faith expression.
3. Remind yourself that others - like me - once appeared to be too liberal, Republican, lost, hipster, whatever, to re-surrender.
Hope is a deadly weapon against hopelessness.
"But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance." - Romans 8:25
All it took for me to return to the Father (as a prodigal son, who had unfollowed Jesus) was an encounter on the Seattle Viaduct
while driving to the office. That single experience 13 years ago was the restart-spark I didn’t know I needed (but desperately did) toward a life of engaged dependency on Jesus.
Ultimately, we are all called to love, pray, and hope, with all eager expectation, that God draws our friend(s) back to repentance and life abundant.
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." - 2 Peter 3:9
What helps you love friends when they’re unfollowing Jesus?