There are 3 pillars of Christian faith–3 aspects that I think are essential to authentic life with God. In the early Church, for example, all 3 were understood as crucial for the Christian life.
A. Acceptance into the Family of God (separation from old ways and basking in the love of God and relishing being loved)
B. Embrace of the Cross
C. Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
In our culture today, we have a watered down Christianity, where only the first is dabbled in. Most Christians who leave the Church and most people who do not enter it in the first place do so because Christians are insipid in the living out of their faith–two thirds of what should be there is missing. They are seeing vice and sin and no real living out of the Cross and no real impact by the Spirit.
Christians get tripped up and stuck. We enter into the first vestibule, the adoption into the family of God. We like that—there is much to gain. In this vestibule, we lick our worldly wounds, we find reprieve from the sins of the world, we feel loved.
But inevitably, it is time to move onto the Cross. The time comes to learn about how to suffer and not retaliate, how to be falsely accused and not defend oneself, how to be deprived, and not insist on our own way. It is time to stop feeling sorry for ourselves for not getting what we want or think we deserve. It is time to find Christ in our lack, and be with Him there. It is time to give the world a gift in our suffering, as Christ offered His life for the sins of the world. We have to learn to be glad in our sufferings and act as priests who, by the power of God, transform humiliations, torture and death into dignity, joy and life.
Most people do not ever make this step. Again, it was requisite in the 2nd century. But today, it is considered beyond us. The powers of evil have so overtaken our culture that we cannot even see that we are supposed to be living with Christ’s cross. We are just mired down in anguish, sadness or despair.
Christians leave the faith because they wonder why life is so hard for them, why God is not rescuing them or sparing them. It is time for that person to learn to embrace the POWER of the Cross in his life. It is time to move into the second vestibule, the school of Christ’s Cross, and learn to transform others and bring love and new life into the world by offering up suffering for the world.