I came across two separate articles today that had a similar theme. One was this article from RELEVANT Magazine about the fact that the Gospel is not meant to be a behavior-control device. The other was this blog post from Jon Acuff about a conversation he had with someone who was surprised he was a Christian because he didn’t seem judgmental enough.
I need to confess that I think God is trying to speak to me about this issue. See, I usually think that I’m about 3 steps ahead when it comes to this. I belong to that culture of young people that grew up in church who are always awkwardly trying to reconcile our faith with the world around us. We tend to look and sound something like this. When I was about 18 years old, I was neck-deep in frustration over these kinds of problems. I walked around with a lot of resentment about the fact that church people spent so much energy on judging people and culture. You know how everyone grows up with their parents’ voices in their heads? Well, I grew up with my parents’ scoffs and eye-rolls in my head. I always knew when something I was enjoying would illicit the dreaded scoff and eye-roll move. In high school when Family Guy first came on the air, I LOVED IT. I would laugh at that show until I cried! But could I just enjoy it in peace? No. Inevitably my mom and dad were in the back of my head scoffing and rolling their eyes all the way to the backs of theirs. Do non-Christians deal with that? For your sakes, I hope not. When I went to college those little parents that lived in my brain short-circuted. There were too many people living with too much sin, so mini-mom and mini-dad started to look sorta demonic with their eyes rolled to the backs of their heads and just a never-ending scoff coming out of their mouths. Suddenly my college friends were looking like angels in comparison. So I did what most Christians do in college: I had mini-mom and mini-dad removed from my brain so that I could think for myself. Eventually I got tired of all the scoffing because I realized, “Hey, these are real people. Maybe we shouldn’t eye-roll them into oblivion.”
Is any of that coherent? Maybe not, but something tells me a lot of people can relate.
I’m not blaming my parents for any of that. In fact, I’m blessed that my parents were as down-to-earth as they were. It could have been a lot worse. Pastor’s kids are notorious for not knowing how to handle the voices of their parents in their heads. So often if someone finds out that I’m a PK, they squint their eyes and look at me really hard as if they’re trying to determine, “Which kind are you…….” I think they’re trying to decide between “super-rebel” or “sheltered nutcase”.
The classic story I hear a lot is of people who don’t like church because they were somehow burned by it. They were made to feel like their every move was being watched and they had to perform in order to be accepted. They say it felt fake, restrictive, hypocritical and unloving. I’ve had the same experience to some degree. But what shocked me was that I ended up having the same exact experience in the non-Christian world. It lured me in with abstract promises of love and acceptance, but I didn’t really find that there. I found that I was still judged, people still put expectations on me and I was still surrounded by hypocrites. In fact, I became more of a hypocrite and more judgmental. My conclusion: it’s a human being issue, not a Christian/non-Christian issue. Once I got to that point I started to invite Christians back into my head because in them I found truth that made a difference. I’m much more selective of what voices I allow in there because I want truth and grace, not judgment and hypocrisy.
That’s my current view of Christianity and Christians. I find real truth in Christ and I find that I actually want people to lovingly help me see how I’m supposed to live my life. What God is teaching me now is that I might have started to go too much in that direction. I’ve rushed back to truth so hard that I might swing out the other way and become one of the judgmental people that caused so much damage in the first place. I think there are some people that God has anointed to give tough-love type of advice and I’m just not one of them. When I listen to Dave Ramsey, for example, I get so fired up I want to call the first person I can think of and say “You’re stupid with money and you need to do what I say!!!!!!!” Somehow Dave is able to do things like that and inspire people. When I do it people say, “Woah. Back off, jack-ass.”
So, it was important for me to read those articles today and to continue to think about God’s call for me to be humble and kind as His representative. I can see the need to improve in that area just from reading my past blogs. I like to sound intelligent and like I have something to say. God’s pressing on me to keep my head down and concentrate on Him, not myself. I pray that He uses that, not my intelligence, to bless people.
LAMP OF THE BODY
Today I came across this amazing video of a guy juggling in Iceland.
It had two effects on me: 1) I want to go to Iceland even more now. 2) I now have a favorite musician who I can’t understand anything he says. You can’t even buy his CD in the US apparently, but you can listen on YouTube here. It’s REALLY good.