Why We Should Let People Walk Away from God

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, March 3, 2020 4 comments

by Chad Koons

A loving God wouldn’t do that! Shouldn’t Jesus have tried harder?! I was astounded when I realized what was going on here, it changed the way that I see God’s interactions with mankind.

In Mark 10:17-31, the “Rich Young Ruler” ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees before Him, famously asking him a question. They had a brief discussion before Jesus dropped some hard truth on the man, causing him to leave. While the obvious point in this story is about who gets into God’s Kingdom and the correcting of Jewish teaching regarding it all, that’s not what I want to highlight.

There is something absolutely astonishing about this event, where Jesus does not behave as most of us would expect Him to. Once you see it, it changes your perspective on God’s dealings with man and thus our dealings with one another.

“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him…”

In His love and wisdom, Jesus was flawless as always. “You lack one thing.” Jesus went on to give him instruction. “Come follow Me.” Jesus even extended the invitation. In one masterful stroke, Jesus had revealed the man’s heart, corrected his thinking, and laid out the cost of discipleship all in a singular perfect discourse. Jesus did all of this while knowing what would happen next.

“Disheartened… he went away sorrowful”

The man was offended. The lifestyle that the man had built for himself was so strong that it would not allow him to change, so he turned around and left Jesus standing there. Here’s what struck me: seemingly without compassion and without any effort to prevent him, Jesus simply lets the man walk away. Jesus did not try to stop him. Instead, He turned around to speak with His followers.

It seems that we get insecure with our relationships and evangelism. We live within a culture where we are pressured to support and affirm rebellious sin. We walk on eggshells around those whom we are trying to reach, scared to death that something may offend them or push them away. We even make changes to our theology in order to accommodate those who are in sinful lifestyles, going so far as to adopt their sin so as not to dis-include them.

The hard reality is that sometimes people need to be allowed to walk away. If someone needs to feel sorrow and brokenness for their sin, then I must not hinder that process. I must let them feel that sting, the pain of separation from God. It is not my place to try to ease their struggle. The truth of God will invariably hurt sometimes, and we must allow people to wrestle through it to find repentance!

Tell me, who is it that can change a life? Is it God, or is it you? It’s natural to want to support and affirm, but often that’s not what someone needs. Jesus gave that man exactly what he needed in that moment, and it made him walk away. Yet Jesus was supportive of this, because He knew that God was at work.

If it is for the Word’s sake, let them be angry, allow the frustration, and please have the courage to take your hands off and allow them to both become and remain broken. If we chase people down to fix them, we may soothe what the Lord needs to remain hurt. Surgery is painful. In our attempts to bring healing and support, we may be the one thing keeping that person from a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Sometimes they require our distance for God to work.

Wisdom reaches beyond the immediate, apparent need, mapping the distance from this point to that, revealing in a moment what is necessary versus what our emotions may be telling us.

Love knows when to let go. Look at the love of Jesus; His love let the young man walk away full of sorrow. Had the rich young ruler met a modern-day Christian, if it were you or me, what would have we done? Would we have chased him down to make it better and coax him into the Kingdom?

There is a love mature enough to allow the necessary distance.
There is a love confident enough to permit the struggle.
There is a love sacrificial enough to allow Godly sorrow which leads to repentance.

If we remove the hard truths of the Word of God, then we remove the struggle through which God must work.

Am I holding onto somebody that I need to let go? I’ve had to do this. It hurts, more deeply than I can share here. It turns into an ache that drives me to my knees. Let God do what He needs to do. Turn them over to the Lord and pray for those individuals. Let go and let God.

I am ever learning that God doesn’t need my help, and I am seeking wisdom to know when to step in, when to back out, and what distance may be required. If they need letting go, for however long that may be, then I must join God in it. To do otherwise is painfully not Christ like.

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Debby Hiester said...

Thank you for this poignant piece. It makes us question my own behavior with friends, colleagues and above all, famiily. I agree with you that we find God amidst trials and tribulations, and especially self-actualization. The 'letting go' piece is possibly the most difficult piece of all, but potentially the most rewarding. Times of brokenness result in one of two actions: we seek God or we don't. Human nature is powerful, but we gain our most power when we believe in Him.

Amber Shelton said...

This is a great perspective on evangelism. Compelling someone to repent and follow Christ is what we should be doing but not watering down the word of God to make it fit their lifestyle. I believe that we plant seeds, some water, and others harvest on that seed. The power of the testimony is many times rooted in the soil of struggle and misery without God and desperate attempts to fill the void with everything else. Excellent reminder!

Jason said...

Wow I never focused on that part of this story. What a great insight and truth! As a teacher, I have to actually do this with my students. If there is disruptive behavior, there are times to redirect, times to deescalate, times to comfort, and times to let go. Sometimes that student needs to be by himself in timeout and think about what he did. And if they have a bad attitude later and don't want to play after the timeout, I have to give them that space to allow for true repentance. Have you ever thought about what happened to this man? The Passover was prepared in a large furnished upper room, probably a rich mans house. We don't know what happened to the rich man but it would be awesome if he repented and used his finances mightily for the kingdom.

Carl Adkins said...

Chad this is a great reminder and needed perspective of this passage.
"He was offended" He could only be offended if he wanted to be. Jesus let him walk. Didnt say Jesus didnt still love him, but Jesus allowed separation and distance to take place.
Too many times when people get offended we try to pursue when we should eschew and love from a distance.