“Ready, Fire, Aim!”
This seems to be the battle cry among many evangelicals within the American Christian culture, but what are they firing at? Some have called it a faith exodus, but the term that continues to stick is deconstruction.
To make matters worse, the lack of clarity on what has happened to cause seeming masses of people to leave the faith has caused some to wage a culture war in defense of Christian traditions and others to explore new ways to attract those who have left. While it may seem new, deconstruction is not a modern problem, and it will only be solved by biblical principles.
Secondary Things Can Be Deadly
When writing his letter to the church in Rome, the apostle Paul makes an interesting statement. In chapter 14 Paul exhorts those in the church not to “destroy with food” the person for whom Christ had died. Paul is not writing about choking hazards, but how the Christians of that day were treating their brothers and sisters in Christ concerning dietary restrictions.
Specifically, the debate that is being addressed was on whether it was acceptable to eat something that had been sacrificed to an idol and could consequently be purchased at a cheaper price. While it may seem that a preverbal food fight should not cause a major issue, Paul explicitly tells the church that these kinds of arguments have the potential to destroy the faith of some.
Destroy may be a harsh word but Paul, a master of reverse engineering, explains that this is exactly what happens when secondary things become primary. The destruction of one another was happening over secondary issues in Paul’s day and can be seen vividly in American Christianity today. When any brand of Christianity builds a foundation on something secondary to the doctrines of scripture, deconstruction is inevitable, no different than pulling a block from a Jenga tower. It may even be argued that many of those that are now in various phases of deconstruction, never desired any destruction to happen but were given a faulty foundation from the beginning.
Love > Liberty/Law
Once the problem of making the secondary, primary, is identified the solution becomes rather straightforward. As Paul explains to those in Rome, the wounds caused by wielding secondary issues like a weapon can only be remedied through love. When love becomes primary, secondary things like personal liberties and strict law can fade back into the background where they belong.
Moreover, people who are in the throes of deconstruction can find a safe space to deconstruct within the church instead of going outside. A place can be found to act together in love, instead of reacting on each side. Even when writing to the Colossians church, Paul emphasizes that this bearing of one another’s burdens is exactly what it means to show outwardly the law that Christ fulfilled on our behalf. Rather than being the reverberations of a destructive earthquake, we become echoes of the love of Jesus.
Although deconstruction is a very present issue, it has been around for centuries, and it’s not going away any time soon. As long as the church is filled with sinful people, deconstruction will happen. However, the greatest risk to the church isn’t that some are deconstructing, but that the church never evaluates why. Consequently, the greatest risk to those who are deconstructing is that the journey ends there.
The church must continually call itself to refocus, and in love reconstruct with those on the inside and out, around the eternally good news of Jesus.