Selam to all
this touches a sensitive nerve for me, and I was not going to say anything but even an emotional reflection such as this one might have a place somehow.
The following is mostly a reminder to self, triggered by the question of the OP who is also a Christian and is not foreign to what we Christians hold dear in our faith. Before one goes looking for this faith or that, a Christian must have a clear grasp of what his or her faith is. Only then can a Christian know the Christian way to discern things. As a Christian in matters of the faith I will reason from a Christian perspective so that is what I will proceed to do in here.
I have a special liking to the prophet Habakkuk as he is one of those who were baffled by the mysteries we encounter with who God is and what that means in our reality. The reason why things are the way they are etc. He struggles with these questions, and yet he comes out of that struggle loving, faithful, trusting and hopeful in God.
The OP’s questions and comparisons brought Habakkuk ‘s words to mind. What is a reason that will be enough to abandon one’s faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel? What love can compare with the love of Jesus Christ the Word Incarnate? Who can be trusted to endure all manner of punishment and shame even death to come get you out of the deepest hell you might be sitting? Who can be trusted to come for you when all have abandoned you? When your strength fails, your intelligence dim, who is there to embrace you with unfailing love? Who can compare with the beauty of Christ? What would be my reason that will be enough to abandon him?
Is it because there are no teachers who speak about him?
Is it because there are no people / “enough” people who believe in him?
Is it because those who say they believe in him do not live as he commanded?
Is it because those in the church were mean to me?
Is it because I have seen some evil done by those who claim to follow him?
Is it because those that are Christians are not serious about him or their faith in him?
Is it because the churches are empty and I am the only one in the congregation?
Who can call me a Christian when I think this way myself? When all I do is look at others and not Him my Beloved? If I truly love him and live to please him alone, who are those other people that they will get me to abandon my love? Are they God to me that I should follow them and imitate their ways? Are they God to me that how I live rests on what they want me to do ? Are they God that where they go I must follow? So who is my God ? Who do I worship, Adore and live for? What is the target of the athlete that runs the marathon? Does the athlete who gets the crown get it for abandoning the race because of how others are running? When the Lord said he that holds the plow and turns back is not meant to be his, isn’t he warning those of us who love to look and idolize others instead of Loving and worshiping the Creator alone? Who would abandon the pearl of great price to chase after an ash? Judah was an apostle, he abandoned Christ, should I follow? Demas was called for discipleship, the robust city of Corinth lured him in and he abandoned his discipleship of Christ for the world Corinth offered him, should I follow Demas? There were many disciples that turned away when Christ spoke about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, and the Lord asked the apostles and those disciples that were there would you like to go as well? So do I want to turn away and abandon him because there are people in millions who have done so? Since those that stayed with Christ at Capernaum were very few where as those that abandoned him were many, so by majority vote should I abandon him also? How many of us believed in Him when he believed in humanity enough to be one of us and die for us?
The psalmist cries Eli Eli lama sabachthani?/ My God my God why have thou forsaken me? And the fathers teach, thus cried Adam when the fullness of the time that was promised to him arrived and he found himself still in Sheol with the deceiver taunting him, where is your God now? If he loves you let him save you! His pain of abandonment was embraced by the savior in that very instant who echoed it from the cross Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani? And like Adam he heard these words :where is your God now? If He loves you let Him save you! These very words were said to the Savior on the Cross, by the enemy of mankind who was taunting him while attempting to figure out and see who this man on the cross was. But the conqueror cried out the herald of victory and said It is Consummated! And soon the enemy found himself chained, and the one on the cross who looked abandoned and weak suddenly descended into the belly of Sheol to get to his beloved Adam and his children whom he has promised he will come for. The bitter price of Adam’s freedom paid with the purest blood of the Creator Himself who has become a slave for the love of Adam and his descendents . Hatred was annihilated, the liar and the blasphemer silenced when the Son of Mary descended into Sheol to wipe the tears of Eve.
Didn’t we with our very hands slap him? With our very hands beat and whipped him? Stripped him off his garments and crucified him? For all that we have done to him, for all that he received by our very hands he did not abandon us, instead he loved us even unto death, he willingly gave his life for us. When there were but a handful that loved him he died for all even for those who hated him. He came looking for one while he had legions of Angels who adore him night and day. He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. He will battle for one he abandons none! So what is my reason to abandon him?
When peter asked to walk on the water, the Lord told him to come , he walked right until that moment when he looked away from the Lord and looked at the power of the raging storm and doubted. In Ethiopia when Churches are built there is one thing that is always part of the building, at the highest point of the roof of the sanctuary there hanging is an ostrich egg, that egg is to teach all the faithful who we need to keep our eyes on at all times good or bad even unto death! As the fable goes that an ostrich keeps vigil over the egg night and day and does not turn its gaze from the egg. So the egg says keep your eyes On God alone and you will bear fruit. The egg also symbolizes the ever present watchfulness of God over his creation.
So the point is if all one has to say is I left Christ because of other people whatever those people are supposed to have done or not have done… that person was never a Christian in the fullest sense of the term. Instead that person has fallen in the sin of pride and idolatry, the worship of self and others. Because the Lord himself says he that loves even his life above me, does not belong to me. the excuse of ‘so and so made me do it ‘ has been used before in paradise no less and that excuse did not save those who used it the first time, and it will not save us today. To those much is given much is expected.
The apostle Paul asks Romans 8:35-39 “35who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
What is loss of others and even that of self if one can gain Christ? The Apostle answers : Philippians 3:8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
As the Psalmist says “ Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” Psalm 73:25
The Prophet Habakkuk says it even in depth as one who knows suffering and loss, turmoil and desolation. Humbled before the mystery of God’s Wisdom he says: “For though the fig tree will not bear fruit and there be no grapes on the vines; The labor of the olive tree fail and the fields yield no food; though the sheep have no pasture and there be no oxen in the Cribs; yet I will glory in the Lord; I will rejoice in God my Savior. The Lord God is my strength; He will direct my feet to the end; He will set me upon the high places, so to conquer by His song.” Habakkuk 3:17-19
Yes at all times, in all conditions the believer preservers, even if all turn back, even if one stands to lose one’s very life the believer preservers and glorifies the Lord, and rejoices in God his/her Savior. Habakkuk’s prayer, is very dear to me and it reminds me not to despair, Christ is in our midst.
Now people have abandoned Christ for many different reasons, and yes there are those who will leave into the darkness of Islam even as there are those who will leave the lies of Islam for Christ who is the Truth , the Way and the Life. And it will continue thus. If we must look for examples of faithful courage, love and hope, let us look at the work of God in the life of those people who find Christ and left Islam for Christianity . they courageously and faithfully endured great tribulations and suffering to hold on to the Orthodox Faith, like our beloved father Qidus/Saint Abba Enbaqom Ichegee of Debere Libanos , a Yemeni Muslim Convert( his former name Abul Fath), whom Our Lord Jesus Christ granted in his great providence to Christian Ethiopia to be His witness against the coming Muslim invasion of Ahmed Grahn. Perhaps some here would benefit from learning about his life and his conversion that was providential both for him and for the Orthodox Ethiopians as well.http://www.dacb.org/stories/ethiopia/enbaqom.htmlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enbaqomhttp://orthodoxwiki.org/Abba_Inbaqom
And perhaps even the life of Niwaiye Kristos ( Property of Christ) the former Sheikh Zacharias would also be instructive.http://www.dacb.org/stories/ethiopia/zakaryas2.htmlhttp://orthodoxwiki.org/Shaikh_Zekaryas
and there is a recent miraculous event that lead to the unearthing of a 4th century Church in Ethiopia that involves a Muslim man in God's Providence that is always calling those who are mislead by Islam to return to Christianity. http://www.africanews.com/site/list_messages/12282
there are many others , worth mentioning yet for the wise one word is enough.
Through the intercession of the Mother of God, may we all be protected from the lies and deceit of our ancient enemy the deceiver who masquerades as an angel of light yet plunges all who follow him into darkness.
Lord have mercy!