It’s Time for Christians to Grow Up

james-dean-397027_640Certain voices speaking for the church these days annoy me. This week I figured out why.

It’s because they remind me of those kids in high school who were just a little older than we were, you remember them, right? The ones who knew it all.

They were the ones who sneered at the freshman because we still covered our books and worried about getting to class on time. The ones who leaned against lockers and told us to “grow up.” The ones who smelled of Marlboros and hairspray who scoffed at our naiveté. The ones who told us growing up meant being laid back about things like homework and grades, that growing up meant taking a casual approach to class attendance, that growing up meant to stop being afraid of pot, of second base, and of staying out past curfew. That growing up meant making our own choices not what our parents counseled. Following rules was for babies.

There are voices like that speaking for the church and they really bug me.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in growth, in change, in living counter-culturally, in transformation. I believe in understanding the times and expressing ancient truth in fresh ways. But, there are loud voices saying that Christian maturity means forgetting about “the rules,” rejecting anything those who came before us believed, and focusing on a laid-back, tolerant, come-as-you-are-remain-as-you-are approach to faith.

To hang with these cool church voices, I have to know to nod at the other “cool kids” and shrug when anyone mentions concepts like sin, repentance, hell, or costly discipleship. Jesus was a hit at parties, don’t you know, so why should Christians be such a killjoys? It’s the lighten up, crowd. The Pharisee behind every exhortation, crowd. The be-so-afraid-of-throwing-stones-you-never-open-your-mouth-about-sin crowd.

The crowd I’m not in crowd.

Of course, on the other side of the hall, back in school, were the Dudley and Debbie Do-Rights. The ones who believed a position on student council school-417612_640might lead directly to the White House. The ones who knew the rules so well teachers assigned them to rat on the rest of us. The ones who believed there was a map, a checklist, a timeline, and a gift registry for maturity and that any deviation might cause the entire system to implode. They had resumes before we left middle school. People took a backseat to priorities and the rules were the reason we live.

There are voices like this speaking for the church today, too, and they bug me, as well. In the hit single known as the counterfeit church, this is the song on the B side. These are the voices appearing on hate posters at parades or in little mean coffee klatches to which we aren’t invited. Following Jesus isn’t a life focused on rules or judgement or condemning others. It’s not a life of sin-counting or endless self-recrimination. Following Jesus is a life full of life – redemption, song, story, transformation, forgiveness, and healing. When we enter the doorway by admitting we’re sinners in need of saving, we don’t suddenly find ourselves deputized to finger other sinners. Jesus didn’t die so we could be slaves to endless judgement.

He set us free.

It’s hard to follow Jesus, for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is that there are counterfeit Christians fogging up the mirror in the morning. The fakers, the posers, and the self-deceived are a fact of the times, tares planted by the enemy in my Father’s fields. People who would abscond with my family identity, commit crimes in my family name, and muddy the waters on which Jesus walked.

But, God tells me to pay them no nevermind. If I get into weeding His fields before the harvest, who knows what tender seedlings I might uproot. Instead, when I hear their voices and feel the annoyance rise, I remember to pay attention to the only voice that matters – Jesus, the Shepherd.

The answer isn’t to claim that every annoying voice is from a counterfeit Christian. It’s way above our pay grade to decide who’s saved and who isn’t. Besides, not every voice that gets it wrong or annoys us is lost. Sometimes they’re just still in process like the rest of us.

groucho-marx-309396_640The answer is to remain so close to an authentic Jesus life that we aren’t tempted by the cool kids in the hall, nor bullied by the rule-worshipers waiting in the alley. The answer is to remind ourselves and others that there is a phantom church that has nothing to do with Jesus. And it’s on us to live like Jesus, to teach like Jesus, and to love like Jesus so increasingly well that outsiders can spot the genuine from the fake if what they’re seeking is Jesus.

Peter knew something about living for Jesus. He said to be effective and fruitful in our faith we should have these qualities in increasing measure – faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. When I find people who follow Jesus and exhibit these qualities, I know I have company surviving the hallway of public discourse on faith.

It is time for everyone who follows Jesus to grow up. That doesn’t mean abandoning the rules and neither does it mean being enslaved to the rules. What it means is following the One who fulfilled the rules and promises daily to give us everything we need for life and godliness – Jesus.

Don’t take the bait from the cool kids and don’t be bullied by the junior Pharisees. There’s another voice calling – the voice of the Shepherd. Follow Him. You hear Him, don’t you?

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    The Conversation

  1. Rosa says:

    Very nice. Would comment more, but I have a one year old 🙂

  2. Trisha Mugo says:

    Great post! I’ve been thinking along these lines, and I’ve been tempted to follow “the cool kids” and have fallen into both camps over the years. The great news is sticking “so close to an authentic Jesus” is the most challenging and wonderful journey of all.

    Thanks for articulating this Lori.

  3. Another “keeping it real” reminder. Lori. It’s what sets your writing apart and challenges me to dig deeper.

  4. Melanie Gibson says:

    This took me back to high school – I was never one of the cool kids, but I wasn’t a Do-Right either; I was just a regular student. I did get good grades, but that was because I worked at it. Then I got to college, and it was exponentially more challenging on all fronts, but what I discovered was that I loved learning and that seems to have been something that God revealed to me about myself. I still don’t feel right if I try to fit in with the cool crowd at church, or if I try to fluff out my church resume by being on every committee I can and volunteering for every event that is scheduled. I do better when I just let myself be me and let God do his work through me.