The Greatest Influencer of All

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Many Christians were stunned by the recent news that former Christian pastor and author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” Joshua Harris, had kissed both his faith and marriage goodbye. Ten years ago, I would have been in the same place. 

But instead of having my emotions sent in turmoil, I found myself instead hopeful for Josh. This seeming “fall” could be his turning point to experiencing freedom in Christ. What some might call a backsliding, might just be step one to him coming to meet the God I have fallen head over heels for. 

You see, I have been on a similar journey to Josh. I was deeply impacted by the Christian purity subculture of the 90s and spent many of my formative years with people shaped by the mindset of Josh’s book. If you haven’t read it, the premise was essentially: don’t date, guard your heart, wait until marriage to kiss and then you won’t be bringing baggage into your marriage relationship. (But hello, sexual sin is not the only sin we bring into a marriage?) 

It was a little bit of God’s truth tied in with a whole lot of works-based faith. Then I watched friend after friend try to do everything “by the book.” But instead of finding stepping stones for a Biblically-based marriage, the man-made formulas left them empty; paralyzed when their marriages ended up not only less than perfect, but sometimes downright hopeless. 

But we waited? We avoided all the “carnal sins.” Why did life end up full of heartbreak when we had the strength to say no to all the temptations we were told to? Too many of us rushed into matrimony for the wrong reasons: worshipping at the altar of sex in marriage. We weren’t actually worshipping God’s life-giving design, we were worshipping our own strength and ability to attain perfection in sexual purity. What we thought was God’s way ended up being a fake substitute. 

Let me say first and foremost, the fault does not in any way lie at one man or movement’s feet. In essence, it lies at each of our own feet. Each of us listening to the serpent’s lie that we can be like God. 

The purity movement claimed to be a part of Christianity, when really it was more like the modern day version of the Sanhedrin of Jesus’s day. It has been humanity’s tendency to look for formulas to our faith since the beginning. Any strategy to avoid the pain of growth, where can I sign up? We’ve been doing it since Adam and it will be the battle the Church fights until Jesus returns.

I’m grateful for Josh’s willingness to address, confess and dive into this topic for those who are still wrestling. Whether he knows it or not, this is a picture of the Gospel in action: owning up to the fact that we don’t know it all. 

Formulas don’t work. The reality of life will always knock this idol of perfectionism off its pedestal. God gets our attention through the bumps and deep dives along the way. It was in the coming to an end of myself that I discovered the freedom of Christ’s redemptive work at the cross.

I see Josh’s questioning of his earlier ideas as a testament that God’s truth will always win. It strengthens my faith that the God of the Bible is who He says He is, and He will tear down any lie that doesn’t reflect His truth.

I don’t see Josh as falling from faith. Instead, I see the man-made “religion” of getting everything right (that does not reflect Christ’s heart) being ripped off of him -- like Eustace having the scales removed from him in C.S. Lewis’s, “The Voyage of the DawnTreader.” This is Jesus chasing Josh and removing everything that is not of Him. This is God reminding us of who the real influencer should be.

Because the “faith” Josh has somehow “lost” is actually a false Gospel Jesus has been putting to death in my own life. I see in Josh’s wrestling (in his recent documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye) many of the same questions I have been asking. One by one, Jesus has met me in the tension. It’s the classic garden of eden storyline tied into my own story. One finger at a time, He has been relaxing my grasp on the coping mechanism of religion and teaching me to trust His wisdom, instead. In surrender, I find freedom. In my weakness, I find His strength. 

Yes, Josh isn’t there yet. He is still on a journey to freedom. But aren’t the rest of us, as well? 

Our faith shouldn’t be rattled by the wrestling and shifting belief of others. (If it is, I challenge you to consider that perhaps it might be time for you to wrestle through your own faith beliefs and find a foundation worth building on).The greatest influencer in our lives is met in the person of Jesus. When He declared, “It is finished,” He put to death our need to achieve perfection or expect perfection of others. He is the only influencer that can or should make an impact on the shifting opinions we will continue to be asked to grapple with. He is the anchor that holds every perspective and cultural movement in focus.