I listened to a sermonette this week by one of the youth pastors, Adam, at a church in Downriver, Michigan, MetroSouth. It was about how those we teach and disciple will live the unedited version of our lives. Because of this, we teachers must consider our choices and actions and live extra-above reproach so that the example we set cannot be adulterated.
Main Point? If we live out these medicated kinds of moral choices so that we can sorta walk the liberal line, the youth that we lead with unmedicate our choices and live totally raucous lives, no line-walking in sight. Adam says something to this effect towards the end of the sermon, “God has not called us to just live the edited version of what the world offers. God has called us, as followers of Christ, to live lives that are radically different. He has called us to a life that doesn’t even have a hint of the stuff of this world.” He’s so right about this. There’s a million chunks of Scripture that say so. When I heard him say this with such conviction, I felt convicted. Sometimes, I edit the way I live so it’s not totally out of line, but so that it still sort of “fits” with the regular life. As I considered these instances in my life and listened to Adam, I thought: Not good.
That’s the part where I agree. He spoke of the Pauline Scripture where Paul boldly says: Be like me, cuz I’m like Christ. Whoah! What a claim, right? But, that’s the way. I should be strving to live confidently so much like Christ that I can say to my youth gals or my camp cabin or whomever, “Do it like this, this looks a lot like Jesus!”
So by these standards, I’m off the charts. I go to the bars, I forget to filter my mouth, I flirt far too often, I read edgy material, and, and, and. Some of this is sin; it’s struggle, but some of these things are choices I make for very specific reasons and here’s the part where I’m not sure I agree with Mister Adam.
Because here’s the thing – if I don’t ever venture near “the line”; if I and all of the Christians like me live so straight edge conservatively as far as my moral choices go, then there’s no one who loves Jesus living in the “gray area” with a buncha folks who don’t care a thing about Jesus. To say it gently, that’s very bad news for the Kingdom.
I wholeheartedly disagree that Jesus doesn’t want those “gray area” folk to know that He loves them like crazy! He does, and they need to know. And the only way that’s gonna happen is if someone (maybe someone like ME) goes into that scary gray area and lives with them and loves them. To do that means creating real and lasting realtionships with these people. It means sharing their interests and loving what they love. It doesn’t mean I give up what I believe to do so – that wouldn’t make any sense. But it can mean bending in the areas where I am strong of conscience and, without sinning, and still glorifying God (glorifying Him even more!) meeting some of these people where they are in order to share the love of Jesus Christ.
Maybe the point of disagreement I have with Adam is not in action, but in audience. I’m not a youth leader in any capacity right now. I think he’s right about how they watch us and emulate the things we do. I think the “rules” for youth camp counselors are heightened for these very reasons. That makes sense. But the whole discussion changes when we expand the audience to talk about everyone and about real life, doesn’t it?
These lines become gray and fuzzy and the decisions are so much less black & white than I expect them to be. It’s why I have alays re-evaluate the choices I make and quit trying to make everyone else’s choices for them. Here’s to living a mostly unedited life.