I have been haunted lately by the current situation of some of my erstwhile Christian friends - erstwhile in the sense that they were my friends in high school and college, and we have since drifted apart, but also erstwhile in the sense that although at one time they professed Christ and seemingly were strong in their faith, their present lifestyle denies it. I know, intellectually at least, that the visible Church is made up of wheat and tares, and God alone knows which are which. I understand that an unregenerate person is capable not only of a false profession, but of apostatizing in any and all sorts of fashions. But it still grieves me to think that these friends, who were seemingly genuine in faith and commitment, went astray with little or no concern for the state of their eternal souls.
The high school friend had been active as a teenager in an evangelical church youth group and had attended a Baptist-affiliated college; now, she is living with her lesbian lover. Oh, she doesn't see anything incompatible between her sexual proclivities and an ostensibly Christian worldview - on the contrary, the last I read she was planning on working on a master's of divinity or something along those lines. But the fact of the matter is, spiritual interests notwithstanding (and here we would do well to note that "being spiritual" and "being Christian" are two separate issues - Oprah is spiritual, for example, but I wouldn't make the claim that she is Christian), she has drifted far from her evangelical roots and has denied the faith of her fathers.
One of the college friends drifted leftward sometime after graduation; perhaps a troubled marriage and its aftermath served as a catalyst for this decline into liberalism and castration of Christian belief, but again, God alone knows the whys and wherefores. This friend, too, had experimented with homosexual relationships, but had settled into a heterosexual relationship without the benefit of marriage. Evidently no one in this friend's church (which was some type of Vineyard fellowship) saw the need to confront my friend about the gravity of flouting Biblical standards of holiness. I have no idea whether or not my friend has continued in these ways, or has been granted repentance - Christmas cards and email have gone unanswered, so it could be argued that the lack of willingness to maintain even the simplest of contact is not a healthy sign.
The other college friend has also gone left, to a greater extreme than either of the preceding examples. After leaving the charismatic movement, this friend harbored for a while among Presbyterians before apostatizing altogether and repudiating the faith once confessed. This friend also decided, for whatever reason, to retain some type of spirituality in the form of new-age spiritual hokum, complete with psychic reading minus the tarot cards ("intuitive counseling"), getting in touch with the divine within, reiki whatever, etc. Granted, with its emphasis on emotionalism and experience rather than reality and historical fact, a charismatic background predisposes an individual to buy into such new-age philosophies. Indications are that this friend is also actively engaged in a homosexual lifestyle. But like before, I was completely surprised by the course this friend had chosen to pursue, and the apparent lack of repentance.
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, for as stated earlier, the unregenerate is capable of doing anything. Truly, man judges according to outward appearance, but the Lord looks on and knows the condition of the heart. These people were, by all indications, fervent, sincere, and genuine in their faith. But times of testing came, and the seed that fell on stony ground eventually withered away. A green shoot with many leaves does not ensure the presence of deep roots.
These erstwhile friends haunt me. Sometimes, I contemplate sending an email and giving the Christian equivalent of a slap upside the head, saying something along the lines of "What are you thinking?? How can you trifle with the Gospel, and trample the blood of Christ underfoot like that?? Have you any idea of the gravely perilous condition of your soul?? Why do you persist in unrighteousness?? What you are doing has eternal consequences!!" But then I think: These people have already had the Gospel proclaimed to them. They have the Word, and the Holy Spirit can bring it to their remembrance. God alone can open their eyes; I can't force them to see. God alone can grant them repentance unto eternal life; I can't argue them into forsaking their sin. What else can I do, except pray?
So, I fear for my erstwhile friends. I tremble when I think of their life apart from Christ, and their apparent lack of concern for Biblical truth. And I say, "There but for the grace of God go I..."