Once I came to embrace the fact that my faith was gone and that Christianity’s core tenants simply no longer made sense to me, the next step was to let people know. I knew there would be different reactions and that was ok. I was at peace with where I stood. I knew this would be difficult news for many to swallow. I determined right from the start that it would be ok. No matter how people chose to react and what they would say, it would be ok. Not in a “say what you want because I don’t care” kind of way. No, no. It was a deep sense of understanding and compassion toward those who might not understand. I get it. I know why you would think it is concerning and disturbing. I know it can stir all kinds of thoughts and emotions and everyone handles that in their own way. I accept that some might be harsh and I’m thankful that most will be loving. For long I remained somewhat shackled by concern about what someone might think or feel regarding something I say or do. I’m not suggesting we should do whatever regardless of how people are impacted. However, I can’t be the one to carry the weight of your ability or inability to accept who I am.
I want to take a closer look at some of the things people say when they find out someone is no longer a Christian. I have a list of 8 right now. It might grow.
Let’s start with a common one. It’s the first one that comes to mind because I’ve heard it many times and it’s something I’ve said about others in the past. I have not had anyone say this to me directly at this point but I suspect some must have thought it or even discussed it about me.
“They must have never been a true Christian!”True Christians
I don’t come from a brand of Christianity where it was possible to lose your salvation. It is the ‘once saved always saved’ kind. You either have it or you don’t and once you do it’s a done deal. So when someone ups and leaves or stops believing, everyone else is left scrambling trying to determine how to tag this person.
“Were they ever truly saved?”
“Did they really believe?”
“They probably believed but it was not faith that saves, it was just head knowledge or they simply had religious faith but not the relational kind of faith.”
Listen, had I not been a True Christian, we wouldn’t be having these kinds of conversations. There would be no surprise and no concern. Simply insisting that this person must have never really been a Christian is a lazy way of avoiding the issues raised every time someone leaves. It’s erasing a huge part of this person’s story just because you might not want to deal with the fact that some people who truly believed can one day no longer believe.
I know that by leaving the Christian faith and saying that it doesn’t make sense to me anymore and that I no longer believe its core tenants to be true, I am essentially saying that you are believing something I have come to see as not true. It might feel like an attack on your faith. You might take it personally. Deep down you now feel the need to justify your belief and insist on maintaining what you think is impossible; for someone who is a Christian to cease being one.
Saying that I, or someone like me, was never a True Christian might make you feel better about your own faith but it is a false statement regardless.
I was a Christian no different than you claim to be right now.
Maybe you feel betrayed and are wondering “how can this person who once encouraged me to believe now be leaving?” Or “how can someone who had such an influence in what I believe today turn around and say they no longer believe those things?” You might be conflicted about what to do with that. Perhaps you have been holding onto doubts and questions and when people leave you start wondering if you should stay.
I can’t take those feelings away and I might not even be able to change your mind. That’s ok. I would encourage you to consider a different way of reacting when this happens.
When someone stops believing, especially someone you know, go talk to them. Revolutionary right?! Instead of making pre-packaged statements about them, ask them to share their story. Have a conversation. Try to understand. We have not become monsters and we are not dangerous. I’m not a threat to your faith and if I am perhaps your faith doesn’t have much left to stand on. Come join the dark side. I’m just kidding, you already are on the dark side. I’m just kidding.
If you are someone who was once a Christian, what are some things people have told you, or said about you, after you left?
If you are a Christian, do you find it difficult to approach someone who has left?