Why People Leave – A Parable
There was a man, and it so happened that it was not the best of days for him. He had had a long day at work, and had exchanged a number of unpleasant words with his boss. He was on the edge of burn out, and his manager had just given him an entire pile of reports at the last minute, that were due the very next day. To make matters worse, he had spilled his lunch on his work pants, and had to hurriedly purchase a pair of shorts to make-do.
He had been looking forward to meeting Jesus at the church the whole day. However, in his haste, he forgot that he had not switched off his mobile phone, which rang at the most serious part of the celebration – it was his manager with new reports. While he had already had dirty looks thrown his way from the congregation due to his dishevelled appearance, the minister leading the church service scolded him for dressing inappropriately and for leaving his mobile device switched on during service. This was followed by a barrage of nasty comments by the parishioners who admonished him for disrupting the service.
On the way home, his wife kept nagging at him about the embarrassment that he had caused.
He felt terrible, and the weight of his shame, embarrassment, and humiliation could be seen in how he slumped his shoulders and blushed crimson red in his ears.
He vowed never to step foot into the church again.
That evening, he went to a bar. He was still feeling a bit agitated from the day’s events, and so in his nervous energy, spilled a drink on the table by accident. The waiter apologised, and quickly went about cleaning up the mess, while ordering another drink on the house for the man. He was also given fresh napkins to wipe himself. The female manager came by to check how he was doing, and hearing what an awful day he had had, empathised with his situation and ordered another complimentary drink for him. She also gave him a hug and a peck on the cheek, “Now honey, who doesn’t make mistakes?”
He has not stopped going into the bar since that day.
There is a lesson to be garnered from this parable. Many Christians, because they themselves have not been evangelised to, nor have they had a true relationship with Jesus, or have yet to experience the redeeming love of God our Father, or are in actuality wounded, take on this condemning and judging attitude towards other Christians.
The Church rather than being a place of welcome, is a place where people feel uncomfortable to go to. There is a lot of insecurity, cynicism, toxicity, and unlove, ironically from the most seemingly devout of Christians who are seen daily at the Eucharistic Celebrations and at every church event. Yet, these are the very same Christians, who in their well-intentions, or as a means to deflect their own insecurities and jealousies, have things such as, “Wow, you have gone really fat, since the last time I saw you,”; “Oh, you are still looking for a job, must be something wrong with you,” come out as the first things from their mouths when they meet fellow parishioners. This speaks of an attitude of superiority, and is really quite befuddling. Rather than building up a fellow Christian. They are ready to attack with their claws drawn out, and are all ready to tear down.
Some stronger parishioners may shrug off these nasty comments in a light-hearted manner, yet others who are not so strong themselves, tend to fall into depression and often leave the church heart broken. Our attitude towards others is often a major deciding and driving force whether someone leaves or stays.
The man in the parable can be easily replaced by anyone: the person who has been stress-eating and has put on some extra pounds, the single mother who has just lost her job, the estranged child who is having a difficult time with his parents, the person with special needs, the poor person who is struggling to make ends meet, the person struggling with same-sex attraction, the person who has an addiction, the divorced man, the man or woman who has had an extra-marital affair, the youth who is cynical about the teachings of the Church, the elderly person who does not know how to navigate the dictates of new technology, the person who is simple-minded, the person who needs help opening the door, the sick person, the person in a wheelchair, the person who is not in ministry, the orphan, the widow and the widower, the youth-at-risk, the gangster ah beng with many tattoos and piercings, the Sunday Catholic…
“And who is my neighbour?”
Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbour to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10: 29-37)
The words of Jesus are clear and without duplicity or double meaning: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13: 34-35) Very often, through our selfishness and lack of love, we tend to be counter witnesses of our faith. This lack of love is then manifested in how we drive others to resentment, and how we take delight in the misfortune of others. We come across as morally superior and it strokes our ego, but the question that we will need to really ask is this: Am I being Christ-like and a Christian, or am I but a superior Christian Pharisee?
We drive many people away, because we do not walk the talk of a Christian. Our actions are a contradiction to the teaching that we preach.
By the Grace of God,
Brian Bartholomew Tan