Wow! It’s been far too long since I’ve had the opportunity to just sit and write. This feels good.
As the school year has wrapped up and I am now in Atlanta for the summer, I look forward to having the opportunity to open up honest conversation about various touchy subjects in the world of Christianity.
Starting with this – again, I just want to open up the conversation – but Christians, I had a revelation today. This is not a new idea, a novel concept, or even something hard to wrap one’s brain around…but a PIVOTAL thing for Christians in America to understand here in the 21st Century. Guys. We’ve missed it.
We have completely missed it. Swing and a whiff, strike out for we the American Church.
In my second day of my fellowship here at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, I had the extreme privilege to read and discuss Henri Nouwen’s book In The Name of Jesus. The book is a quick read about Christian leadership and I would highly encourage any Christ-follower to give it a read. It’ll take you an hour.
The book was fascinating because it has proven to be prophetic. I don’t use that word lightly or sarcastically but sincerely. Nouwen wrote the book in the late 1980’s to address the struggles that Christian leaders would face in the 21st century and how those leaders should respond. 25 years later it’s incredible to see how Nouwen hit the nail on the head.
The church in 2014 faces many issues, and Nouwen anticipated several of them in this short book. For one, the pressure that church leaders face to be increasingly relevant in an evolving society. For another, the Church’s temptation to seek power rather than love the poor and needy. He also anticipated the future “celebrity” Christian leadership and encourages Christian leaders to seek a life of downward mobility and humility rather than popularity. This last point was rather convicting, especially as a worship leader. (For more on the issue of worship leaders and celebrity/popularity, check out this awesome article written one week ago on the matter)
As my group of new friends and fellow interns discussed the book with our boss and pastor, Joe, one thing jumped out at me. All of these issues we face, I believe, can be clumped under one major virus that has taken over in today’s Christianity – the virus of compartmentalization.
In today’s America, we are raised in a world where we are taught from birth to wear various different hats. Maybe a more accurate description would be that we are raised to wear various different faces depending on our surrounding environment.
I don’t believe this idea is a bad one at its core. Obviously, my behavior is going to be different at school or work than it is when I’m chilling with my family or friends. That’s okay, and even Biblical. Paul talks about this in both Romans and 1 Corinthians as he discusses the effectiveness of adapting to and respecting the surrounding culture to best perform ministry.
But I’m not talking about changing cultures here. I’m not talking about how ministry in America looks radically different from ministry in India.
I’m talking about going from work to school to church to home, all here in our American culture. We put on different hats. We wear different faces. Behaviorally, to some extent, this is 100% okay – but spiritually and motivationally, this is not.
We have put a thermostat, or in some cases, an on/off switch on our spirituality.
I love Baylor University and I love attending a Christian school. But one of my fellow interns is also a fellow Bear, and she told a story about a professor she had in a laboratory science class who told his class that he was an agnostic in the classroom and a Christian everywhere else.
Did you hear what I said? A professor at a Christian university told his class that he was an agnostic in the classroom and a Christian everywhere else!
This is bogus! This is absurd! You can’t “be Christian” when it is convenient! Yet, I can’t think of one single person I know who doesn’t do this to some extent.
No offense, but every single one of us is guilty of this crime. I am, you are, your parents are, your pastors are.
America has convinced us that different social environments require different levels of Jesus.
Our society has wired us to compartmentalize, to know when it is and when it isn’t okay to pursue Christ. Legalistic views of Christianity and a gospel of comfort and convenience have led to this mindset. I think we even have a ratio, some sort of “balance” between our “spiritual” life and our “normal” life. What is this?!
The prof’s excuse was that it helped advance his career as a scientist to claim agnosticism in the laboratory. So can God be absent in your career and present everywhere else? Are there times in life, in career or family situations, where Jesus is allowed to come second?
The interns and I talked about the on/off switch We discussed the way that each of us can have the bad habit of turning on or off our conscious pursuit of God in each moment and environment we live in. My question is simply this – should that be possible for a Christian to do?
I’m not saying that you aren’t a Christian, I’m not saying that I’m not a Christian. I’m simply asking the question. How is this possible?
Look in the Bible. Every single person who came into contact with Jesus Christ and acknowledged the Son of God was radically and fundamentally changed forever.
They couldn’t shut up. They couldn’t stop sharing. They couldn’t stop their radical pursuit of living a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus even asked one healed man to shut up. But the healed man couldn’t. He had seen God, and he couldn’t stop leaping and shouting for joy.
Paul, Peter, John, James. All of these guys have written books in the New Testament, and it is apparent to me that all of these guys could not stop pursuing Him.
They saw who Jesus was and is. They had no other logical choice. The only sane thing to do was to radically chase Jesus.
Paul did not stop his pursuit, despite being imprisoned and shipwrecked and snakebitten. Peter did not stop despite eventually being killed upside down on a cross. John did not stop, he grew old and became a grandfather figure to the Church as he continued to radically pursue Jesus. James pursued Jesus so radically that the Sanhedrin stoned him to death.
These men faced far greater risk and persecution than we face today. Yet they never turned the switch off, they never stopped. They relentlessly followed Jesus Christ all the way to the end. I’m not saying that they were perfect – Paul makes it pretty clear that he constantly struggled with sin – but Paul also talks about his spirit being conflicted in such moments.
Christians, tell me – how numb have we become to sin? How easy is it for us to “turn off” our Christianity and engage in sinful things on a regular basis?
How hard is it for us to live life the way that Christ asks us to?
I believe a Christian should view everything and every situation they are in through the lens of God Almighty. No, that isn’t easy. It’s a discipline that is never perfected. But how many of us even try?
Your quiet time in the morning is important, sure. Your church attendance and involvement will help you grow, absolutely. Your prayers at meals and bedtime are certainly heard and received by your loving Father God. But the Christian life is one that involves continuous prayer. A Christ-follower handles every single situation in a manner worthy of the Gospel.
This seems impossible. It’s hard. None of us do it well. Why? What’s the problem?
Christian, how well do you know Jesus?
I think once someone comes into contact with the Jesus Christ who took our sins, he can’t help but live a different life. I think the issue in America today, and Nouwen touches on it in his book, is that men and women of God aren’t committed to knowing Jesus. We don’t spend the still, silent hours in prayer and meditation. We don’t cry out to God out of a desire to know Him. We cry out to God out of our need for Him – which is a pivotal first step! – but then we leave it there.
We must get to KNOW the heart of Jesus. Once we know the heart of Jesus, we can relentlessly pursue Him. Once we know the heart of Jesus, there is no on/off switch – there is only life, lived in constant pursuit of being like Jesus.
My good friend and a mentor of mine, Baylor basketball strength coach Charlie Melton, put it in terms of night-vision goggles. When you put on night-vision goggles, your entire view of the world changes. Everything looks completely different. In the same way, a Christ-follower should have “God-vision goggles” through which they view the world.
When a believer looks at everything through the lens of Jesus Christ, the entire world looks different. Priorities change. Interactions change. Desires change. Everything changes. And rather than having an on/off switch of spirituality, this person wearing the goggles is constantly interacting with God and viewing things through His eyes.
What a radical way to live. Radical because very few Christians do it well.
Christians – I know we’ll never be perfect, I know that there is no way we can be exactly like Jesus. We are flawed, imperfect, broken people and we must live in that brokenness while we are in this broken world.
But our perspective on Christian living must change. Our mindset has to be shifted.
Compartmentalization must be destroyed. Godly living must begin.
This is something I’m going to work on as I go through my summer, and something I will strive to live by my entire life. I want to see the world through God’s eyes. I literally don’t want to have the ability to turn off my passion for pursuing Jesus. I want it to be a 24/7 change of perspective.
Christian, want to beat that sin? Want to make a difference? Want to be a true follower of Christ?
Get to know Jesus. Because if you do, you will have no logical choice but to put on God-vision goggles.