Last week, Josh Harris, a prominent author and former pastor, announced in an Instagram post that he has, in his words, “undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus.” The social media stones flew fast and furiously.
Our hearts break over the venomous shaming this man is receiving. Wrestling with your faith is not the unpardonable sin. The Bible is filled with accounts of people, like Jacob and David, wrestling deeply with God and openly with their faith. Even the apostle Peter denied Jesus. Three times. With cursing! And how did God respond? He made Jacob a nation, David a king and Peter head of the church!
Many, on the other hand, were quick to condemn Josh Harris. In A Letter to Josh Harris, for example, one of his close friends wrote, “Jesus says about people like you that in the last judgment, He will say, ‘Depart from me, I never knew you.’”
Jesus never says, “Depart from me, I never knew you” to doubters, sinners or unbelievers. He says it to those who presume God’s approval is based on what they do for Him.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”—Matthew 7:21–23
The ones Jesus “never knew” are not those who, along the way, wrestle honestly with uncertainty about Him. It’s the ones who arrogantly credential themselves and boast about their allegiance and service to Him. Jesus equates that to practicing lawlessness.
The will of the Father is for us to rely confidently on Jesus as our salvation. Self-righteousness—the belief that what we do earns or loses us God’s approval—is the real denial of Jesus, who died a torturous death to set us free from the very things that are being lobbed at Josh Harris: guilt, shame and condemnation.
If you’re struggling with your faith, know this: Jesus never condemns a stumbling heart. He only condemns stumbling blocks that try to replace Him as the sole, unwavering and joyful Savior of stumbling hearts.
For all his wavering, wandering and wondering, Josh Harris still has a Savior who will never leave him or forsake him. That’s Jesus’ promise to us all.
Bill & Esther
Helping people with struggles of faith navigate the religious onslaught of shame, fear and confusion is one of the main reasons we exist. If you are wrestling with aspects of your faith, please reach out to us, either by private message on our Facebook page, or email us at email@example.com.