Disclaimer: While most of my material is soft in delivery, there is a time and a place for a strict and assertive approach. I found this to be an appropriate time for such.
Recently a video went viral with a message about what Christians are not. Typical trendy rhetoric followed that while perhaps had good intentions in breaking down the barrier between the Church and the world, the message was very problematic: “I’m a Christian and I’m queer. I’m a Christian and I like Beyonce.” A very well written critique to the video can be found here. This piece is not a critique of the video but rather a holistic response to young Christian millennials who often sacrifice their Christian values for the sake of being relevant to the world. I will remind you, oh beloved children of God, that Jesus himself said that the world will hate you because of your love for Him. You can love the world like Jesus loves the world and still be hated. It’s not your fault, so don’t change your method. Your advocacy for Christ should never come at the expense of your relationship with Him. Here are 5 ways that many Christian millennials are hurting their delivery of the gospel to a world that desperately needs it.
Tolerance flies in the face of the gospel because it is apathetic both to brokenness and holiness, and when we don’t recognize our brokenness then we will never recognize our need for holiness…and thus Jesus becomes, at best, superfluous. Millennials have it in their minds that hating people’s sin means hating the individual. This message is due in part to the liberal media but many young Christian millennials sing the same tune. Instead of hating sin for the separation that it causes between us and God, they accept the sins of others in the name of “loving them for who they are.”
But the problem with that is when we accept people for who they want to be, we neglect the people that Jesus made them to be.
Jesus was the prime example of love, but never does He display an ounce of tolerance. (see: Jesus, The Epitome of Intolerance) Indeed the cross was proof of His intolerance. What type of tolerance prompts a king to step off his throne to die for his people? Tolerance was never part of the story! The gospel does not boast “come as you are, stay as you are” but rather “come as you are TO BE RESTORED!”
We don’t get to make up the narrative here, folks! The story has already been written- and it is beautiful!
2) Neglecting Theology
Consider the etymology of the word theology; theo- God, logy-study: the study of God. A trendy message among young Christians these days is “theology is good, but loving like Jesus is better.” The problem here is that the two are not mutually exclusive. Not only are they not mutually exclusive but rather they are dependent on each other. The more we know Jesus, the more we love Him and the more we love Him the more we want to know Him and so the cycle continues. Our desire to know him (theology) should be an implication for our love for Him. And the more this continues the more we will desire to live like Him and thus love His people AS HE loves them.
You wouldn’t show your love for a spouse simply by how you talk about them, you’d show your love by knowing them, spending time with them, and serving them.
But when theology is neglected, the ramifications are made known in the way we treat others. Even with a Christian label we only love on them with a wishy washy love that promotes no agenda for change and restoration. When theology is neglected Christian millennials succumb to weak cultural ideas and defective scriptural interpretation such as “Jesus just said to love people, so why should we be opposed to gay marriage?” and “the Bible says not to judge, so don’t tell me that I shouldn’t be sleeping with my boyfriend!” when the Bible actually tells Christians to judge each other (Matthew 7:24, I Corinthians 5:9-13). A good theology will inform the individual that not only are they wrong in their sin, but that Jesus wants so much MORE for them; more joy, purity and intimacy with Him.
3) Separation from the World
You are not of the world, so don’t act like you are (Romans 12:1-2). “But John, Jesus partied, so I can party!” Well, sure I guess you can say he partied because He did attend parties and even contribute wine to one (and yes, I admit that this wine was alcoholic). But the above quote is used in a defense of partying that is NOT consistent with Jesus’ partying, and those who make the argument know that full well. As Christians we are to be light and salt to the world (Matthew 5:14). Salt gives flavor to bland food, light gives vision in darkness. See the analogy there? We are to be different and we are to be good. Good in behavior and good in our advocacy for Christ. (See: Woe To You, Church) Does this mean we can’t drink? Not necessarily. Does it mean we can’t get drunk and cuss and make poor decisions with people that we likely wouldn’t have without the influence of alcohol? Yes, it absolutely does if our agenda is to represent Christianity.
But even the movies we watch and the music we listen to are important. If it has an explicit language sticker on it then there’s really no justification to be listening to it. It needs to be tossed. “But I’m an adult.” Yes, which means you’re a Christian and you’re old enough to know better. Not to mention you’re supposed to be setting the example. Junk in, junk out no matter your age.
We’re quick to sing popular worship songs like “O To Be Like You” and “Jesus, Be the Center Of My Life” but how practical do we allow this to be? We need to be Daniels, Esthers, and Joshuas. People of faith who love without ceasing and represent without compromise.
Also, I understand that nobody is perfect but it’s one thing to sin and try to justify it while it’s another to sin and repent; confessing and turning away from sin.
Stop flirting with what you can get away with, and instead pursue the holiness that we have through Jesus Christ.
4) Bashing the Church
Christian Millennials are quick to throw the Church under the bus. Blogs are constantly cycling the internet like “3 reasons why I left my youth group” (and of course it’s the youth group/youth pastor’s fault, not the student who left). While the Church isn’t perfect, I feel it is much more effective to celebrate the good that the Church is doing than the negative, which a lot of times isn’t even negative, it’s rhetoric. For example, it is easy to knock a mega church for putting money into their building but how many mega-church bashers have actually researched the hundreds of thousands of dollars that said mega-church is giving to inner-city and overseas missions?
It’s also important to remember that as Christians we ARE the Church therefore we are the imperfection that is, the difference that needs to be, and the good that the Church is doing.
5) Declining Accountability
The same group of Christian millennials will be the first to dish out accountability, usually in the form of Church-bashing, but will be the last to receive it. It’ll be rendered them, but they won’t accept it. If you call them out on wayward behavior they will notoriously accuse you of judging them and use the Bible to support their plight. But indeed the Bible says that Christians ARE to judge each other, as we saw earlier. If you identify as Christian then you, oh beloved, fall within the God-appointed jurisdiction of judgement from your sibling in Christ. To be clear, judgement should be read as corrective counsel in attempts to hold one accountable and thus point towards restoration.
Accountability is not only biblical, but it is wonderful. Repentance is a means of turning from darkness and receiving the gift of restoration that is found in Jesus. It’s easy to read repentance as a scary thing. But Hebrews paints a wonderful, gospel-reflecting image of it:
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace, to help in time of need.” -Hebrews 4:16
There is nothing scary about that. If anything it’s overwhelmingly comforting that WE, sinners made pure through Jesus, are not only allowed to but are ENCOURAGED to enter the highest of throne rooms to receive mercy and grace from the Almighty, the one who we have grievously sinned against.
God sees you as His child, beautiful and righteous through His son, Jesus. Let us all remember the love that has been lavished on us and make sure that we go and love likely, in truth and in grace.