A few years ago my friend Russ and I decided to get into bike riding. It happened kind of on a whim, but I jumped in with both feet and went out and bought a fancy road bike with all the bells and whistles. Soon after, I bought a nice mountain bike and cycling became my primary form of entertainment. I can remember with great clarity how exciting it was when I first rode over ten miles. Soon, a ten mile ride was nothing to me. Before I knew it, a fifteen or twenty mile ride was common place. I even logged a few rides over fifty and sixty miles. It was a blast. Life eventually got in the way; however, and I got a little derailed. I sort of fell off the bike riding wagon and gained about fifty pounds. Riding the bike was suddenly harder for me. I rode just today and had to work to get in seven miles.
If you put my bike riding into church-talk, you could say that I “back-slid.”
“Back-sliding” is a phrase that I hear often. If you hang out with Christians for any length of time, you’ll eventually hear it as well. Normally, it comes just after someone finds out I’m a Christian, “I didn’t know you were a Christian Clark. I used to be one, but I’ve sort of “back-slid.”
This terminology drives me up a wall. My first response when someone tells me they have ‘back-slid’ is to ask them how. I ask for specifics. I am interested in knowing because it blows me away that someone can think they have fallen so far off the track that they no longer qualify as a Christian. Normally, after I talk to someone long enough, I discover that they don’t mean they have quit believing in Christ or the lessons He taught … what they normally mean is that they have fallen back into a pattern of sin that they thought they had outgrown or given up for good. It is the recurrence of that sin in their lives that prompts them to describe themselves as a “former Christian” that has “back-slid.”
Let me explain why this cheeses me off so much. Being “back-slidden” as described above is a man made concept. Obviously, there are some people who used to believe in Christ and possessed a Judeo-Christian faith that have quit believing for some reason. That’s a different story than I described above. The problem is that most people who describe themselves as “back-slidden” don’t fit into that category; rather, they have allowed the presence of sin in their lives to convince them that they no longer qualify as a Christian. Maybe that’s a concept that their pastor taught them, or maybe it comes out of their denomination’s doctrinal statement; but it certainly isn’t Biblical. The Bible says that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God! We’ve discussed the concept of grace in detail on this blog … tell me, whom among us deserves it?
Denominations that allow people to think they can “back-slide” enough to make God quit loving them are doing their members a huge disservice. So you’ve got sin in your life, huh? Guess what … so does every Christian that walks the earth!
The heart of the matter here is cowardice. People that say they have “back-slidden” out of the grace of the All Mighty are cowards. They make it sound like something that happened to them involuntarily. Certainly, there are addictions and what-not that are harder to fight than others, but all of us who call ourselves Christians have to deal with the presence of sin in our lives. It isn’t always easy, but Christ calls us all to deal with the sin in our lives and live for a higher purpose. Paul compared following Christ to running a marathon because it isn’t always easy.
We have a choice … we can dub ourselves back-slidden and fall deeper and deeper into sin …. or we can get back on the bicycle and huff and puff our way for seven miles … and accept the fact that Jesus Christ died for us no matter where we are on the path.