Turning back

Galatians 4:8-20

Repentance is an important aspect of our Christian faith. It’s the changing of our mind that leads us to Jesus. Once we hear the good news, we decide that is what we want for our lives. The grace of God shows us what the love of God wants to make us. So, we change course. Turn around.

You’ll hear preachers talk about that a lot (I hope). We want people to turn to the way of Jesus. It’s a blessing to hear when people do.

But what if they repent again? That is, what if they turn around again to go back? By definition, I suppose that’s repentance. You’re not going a new way, of course. You’re turning back.

Throughout Christian history, people have turned back. They’ve turned back from true worship, fellowship and discipleship. Many turned from the faith altogether.

And people still do so today.

It’s easy to find another online article about church decline. Everyone has opinions and explanations. New studies and books emerge to unravel who and what, for example, the Nones are.

So, what is our response when people turn back?

The apostle Paul faced a similar situation with the Galatians. As fiery as he might get in the Galatian epistle, he responds pastorally, too. Today’s passage reflects the relationship he had with the Galatians. He’s honest with them. He calls to mind some of their shared experiences. He pleads with them. And he wishes he could be with them again.

What does that teach us? At the very least, when we consider those who have turned back from faith or the church, we should respond in love. These aren’t people who used to go to our church. They are people God brought into our lives. People we have worshipped with and prayed with. Experienced loss and joy with.

You’ll never get them back with guilt or coercion. Shame isn’t a faithful tactic. And don’t try to scare them with hell either. All that’s left to share with someone who’s turned back is what we have to share with the rest of the world. Our love.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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