The other day I was talking to a high school student who has been growing a lot in her faith. She doesn’t have everything figured out, but she is moving steadily towards God. As I listened to her share about how she felt judged by her Christian friends for not being good enough, my heart broke.
Here is a young, believing girl, feeling like she can’t be open and honest about normal teenage things, because her Christian friends would think less of her. She wasn’t even talking about sinful things, she was talking about cute boys, her struggles to believe and her heart to obey God even though she sometimes wanted the things of the world.
If she felt that way among those girls, how do the non-Christian students feel?
The ones who spend their weekends in the club downtown?
The ones who have done a lot more with boys, than think about how cute they are?
The ones who live on their own, doing what they want, with whomever they want?
Often, girls like these are the ones held up on some lofty Christian pedestals, because on the outside they are doing everything right. And while girls are not bad, or wrong, they are just seriously missing much of the gospel.
Yes, Christians should act differently than the world in which they live. However, if we sell these young believers on the idea that acting a certain way is what the Christian life is all about, then we are doing them a huge disservice.
It is an immature and shallow faith that wants everyone all cleaned up, looking spic and span before considering them Christian.
It is a unwelcoming attitude that doesn’t allow the non-believer/young believer to share their thoughts and struggles, admitting that not every part of them is absolutely God focused.
It takes a great amount of wisdom and patience to encourage people to share openly and honestly, and then lead them to the cross with grace.
That got me thinking about my own girls. Am I teaching them that Christianity is all about doing the right things?
Am I cheapening grace by allowing them to believe that the Christian life is no more than good behavior?
Are my actions showing them that I am more concerned with them acting like good girls than I am with the way God is at work in their hearts?
Am I trusting that the Spirit of God is strong enough to deal with their questions, that his grace is wide enough to cover their sin, and that he loves them even when they are struggling?
I guess the answer here is the gospel. It always is, isn’t it?
Young Christians desperately need a clearer picture of the gospel. We all do. They need to know that God’s holiness is SO MUCH MORE than our “best behavior”. It is absolute perfection in thought, word and deed. There is not even the slightest hint of sin, ANYWHERE in God. Even on our best days, with our best intentions, we will fall short. Every time! We need to tell them that their sin is real even if it isn’t obvious. The pride they feel for doing the right thing, the way they look down on others who don’t….those are sins that deeply grieve the heart of God. Those sins are bad. Bad like going to a party. Bad like impure thoughts. Bad like underaged drinking. All sins are bad, even the ones that are nicely packaged. In light of the depths of their sin, they need to see that there is no way for them to clean up the mess themselves. In fact, in trying to do that, they are trampling on the gospel of grace, saying to God that they can do it better themselves. They are saying that they don’t need Jesus beacuse they can take care of this on their own.
We’ve got to show them that they desperately need Jesus, and that He is the only one who can deal with their mess. We need to teach them that God is sovereign, and that He is at work in His children. It isn’t their job to correct everyone’s behavior. Instead, it is their job to gracefully point out sin, and point to the cross, understanding that they too have sin that needs to be brought to the cross.
Lastly, we need to help young believers see that being a Christian isn’t like being a part of an elitist social club, it is about being part of the family of God. Family gets to see the broken, messy, dirty parts of one another. It also gets to see the growth and love that no one else can see. Being a Christian doesn’t make us better than anyone, it just makes us reconciled to God, and gives us a new purpose in life. That purpose isn’t to spread the message of good behavior, it’s to spread the message of hope in Christ alone. I pray that we can encourage a culture among young Christians that speaks the truth, reveals the mercy and grace of God, and that recognizes that no one is any better than any one else. A culture that clearly communicates each person’s need for Jesus, and welcomes those who desperately need that message into community so that they can hear and receive it.