Click on the quote below to read the article...

I had a deeply disturbing dream this morning. I was high up in a tree, working in a tree house with two boys. I had the feeling that the boys were my sons or grandsons and my brothers at the same time. They were young, about ten or eleven.

The "house" was only a floor, although earlier I had seen a very strong metal wall that Boyd had made to put around it. For some reason it wasn't up at this time. At any rate, the wall was missing and I thought we all knew that the house was very dangerous without it. Nevertheless, without warning, the oldest boy stepped backwards and went over the edge. My heart dropped, as we must have been a hundred feet up. I rushed to get down the tree with the other boy.

On the ground I discovered that the impact had somehow buried the boy in the ground and I was frantically digging him up. Eventually others arrived and he was placed in some kind of a frame that allowed him to be moved without further injury. Yes, he was alive, but just barely. His whole body was black and blue and he was not conscious. I kissed him gently and cried.

When I woke, I was still grieving deeply for this boy. I was thinking about how just one false move could destroy a whole life. I had warned the boys, but they hadn't taken me seriously enough.

Then I thought about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God had told them that, in the day that they ate the Forbidden Fruit, they would "surely die".

I have a fear of heights and I often have dreams about someone falling. What is so awful about it is that once they start to fall, there is no way that anyone can save them. It is so totally irreversible.

But, viewed in the natural, Adam and Eve's fall in the Garden did not seem like that. Surely they had not died the same day that they ate the Forbidden Fruit. They went on to live for quite a few years afterwards. And yet what happened then has been given the name "The Fall" as though it was the ultimate, most far-reaching, and most fatal fall in all of history. Not only Adam and Eve fell that day, but the whole human race fell.

If you had asked Adam or Eve about it the day after, or even years after, it is likely that they themselves would have had little idea of the seriousness of what they had done. Oh, yeah, they lost out on all the benefits of a cushy life in the garden, where everything grew just naturally. But in its place they had learned to make things grow in neat little rows; and they probably learned to build shelters from the rain and from the sun. On the whole, it could even be argued that their life had actually improved. In their way of thinking one little slip hadn't really destroyed their life, just altered it rather dramatically.

So we have this other term for a spiritual fall today. We call it "backsliding". People just choose to slip inch by inch away from God's best, and they don't really feel that it's fatal or irreversible at all. They have this feeling that they could come back at any time.

They too have the feeling that life outside of God's best isn't all that bad. It's certainly easier doing what they want to do, and it's such a relief not being told what to do by someone else. There is so much more fellowship and support that comes from other backsliders too. You can even find teachings that make it all sound like something quite different from backsliding - almost like graduation. Backsliders no longer have such an exclusive idea of God. They've come to see that everyone is more or less right in their own way.

But the sad truth is that they are still dead. As the Bible says, "It is impossible to renew them again to repentance." (Hebrews 6:4-6)

We make decisions all through life, many of them in haste. But then we have a lifetime to regret the wrong decisions that we have made. And we will have eternity to regret others that we do not have regrets about now.

In a moment of anger or lust or foolishness someone does something that destroys a life. They didn't mean to do anything so awful. They had no intentions to be "evil" as such. But it does not reverse the consequences.

We Jesus Christians are part of an exclusive group of people, living in a little tree house, far above the rest of society. We have discovered the teachings of Jesus. We have discovered that God wants us to work for love and not for money. We have discovered that God wants us to be sincere and humble, submitting to one another in love.

For a time in our history, decisions were simple. We had a strong metal wall around our tree house, saying very clearly that we were set apart from the rest of the world.

But then we took the wall down in an effort to gain a better view of the outside world. We tried to "listen" to them, to relate, to consider the possibility that they may be sincere in their own way, despite their rejection of us and of the teachings of Jesus.

We leaned over backwards to accommodate former members, relatives, friends, and church members, ignoring all the evidence of hate and insincerity that characterised their relationship with us.

And then someone fell. Suddenly it was too late to bring them back. They didn't die, but they became buried in the values of the earth and unconscious of our efforts to help them.

It now appears to be too late to ever return to fellowship with these people. They have made their choice and their resolve is strong. Just as Jesus called on us to hate them all for him, so they now have made their choice to hate us all for their new life.

The barriers are up, and they are growing stronger every day. The only way we can break them down now is by coming out of our fortress and joining them down on the ground.

But the wiser thing is to return to our tree house with more determination not to let this happen to any more of us. We could put the wall back up. Certainly it would be much better than losing others. Or we could just remind each other over and over to be careful, to stay away from the edge, or at least to hold on very tightly and keep your wits about you whenever you peer over to see what is happening in the world below.

And that is what we will do. There will be no more "make your own rules" approach to life in the tree-house. Discipline will be increased. Standards for admission will go up. Ties with the outside world will be severed. We will be clear about our separation... maybe even to the point of rebuilding the wall.

But hopefully we can keep it low enough or transparent enough that the rest of the community will never forget the awful gulf that exists between us and the "backsliders".

(See also The Virgin Army, Backsliding, and The Split.)

Register or log in to take the quiz for this article

Pin It
Don't have an account yet? Register Now!

Sign in to your account