On Wednesday evening, on a local back road, a teen-age boy’s life ended in a terrible crash. Yesterday the tragedy compounded when news outlets reported that he took his own life. I did not know him but I cannot shake the sadness. How can a young person with his whole life before him conclude that life is no longer worth living? It is both unfair and wrong to try to find someone to blame.
So I have been prayerfully thinking, how is the Gospel I love, the Christ I know, made available to this generation? How can we communicate hope and life with meaning to others?
Then I read about two You-Tubers, Rhett and Link, who are popular in the United States among teens. They recently ‘deconstructed’ their faith. These two articulate, funny guys who were Christians, active in local churches, explained that they are walking away. It is almost impossible to measure the impact they will have on young minds by stating their conclusions that Jesus’ resurrection is a myth and that Christianity does not stand up to modern science and contemporary sexual ethics. Again, I’m not blaming anyone or anything for this ‘death of faith’ but it makes me sad and calls me to do some self-examination. Am I living a consistent, charitable, open kind of faith life that invites others to consider Christ as Savior and Lord?
When people lose hope and transcendent purpose the results are generally not good. We need anchor points in life that can hold us steady when we encounter those rough things that inevitably come our way. Death is going to show up, sooner or later, in our lives when parents die, friends die. Even with faith, encountering mortality is a jolt that shakes people to the core. If faith’s call to greater purpose, to living for something or Someone greater than one’s self, is lost- how does a person remain whole and loving especially when life makes it clear that we are not ‘masters of our own fate?’ We are just small beings surviving in a harsh environment and without faith we can despair or just exist without joy.
I make no defense of the fundamentalism of my youth that mistakenly taught me that ‘absolute certainty’ about the Bible and all matters of faith is possible. It isn’t. Faith is, by definition, wrapped around mystery. Faith is the bridge between the ‘unseen’ and us. Without it, we cannot know or please God, but it must not be sold as a ‘learn this verse and erase all your doubts’ kind of experience.
Faith involves our mind and our heart, our reason and our emotions. Christ invites us to come and find Him good but, if our Gospel is to survive we must make it safe and possible for questions to be asked. We are authentic if we will admit when we cannot understand the ‘why’s’ or outcomes of life, or all of the ways of an eternal God.
Then, too, I think that Christians need to stop making secondary issues into primary ones. For example if we insist that real Christians must adopt a literal view of 6 days of Creation and declare that the earth is just a few thousand years old, without allowing for discussion, for many minds today the conversation about the rest of the Bible is over. Do people have very different convictions about that issue? Of course and that is as it should be, but those convictions do not replace Christ at the core of our faith.
And, then too, if we reduce our understanding of human sexuality to a few simple Bible quotes and prohibitions without attempting a fuller conversation about why God made us sexual creatures, how this sacred gift fits into the whole picture of life, we will not connect with those who have been taught that sex is just another natural appetite to be satisfied in any way that does not hurt anyone else.
In Christ Jesus, I find hope that is rich and steady. In His story I find an invitation into life that is fuller now and that has purpose beyond what I see and know in this world. I hold tightly to these declarations about Jesus – “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—” (John 1:12, NIV) “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV) Trusting His love for me, I learn to love Him and the world which He came to restore to the Creator.
Thanks for reading along with my meandering thoughts this morning. My heart is heavy for the world in which I live. I want to know Christ and made Him known. Don’t you?
Before you go, join me in meditation on this sweet invitation of Jesus to a kind of life that knows His power and peace. Here is a word from the Word.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV) This paraphrase might make His words more accessible for you. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)
Abba, I want to know You better,
to live so that the Light shines through me
into a world stumbling around in the dark.
Transform my sorrow over those who have abandoned You,
over the death of faith that is almost an epidemic around me,
into a desire to pray, to listen, to invite, to show You in my words and actions
as the Beautiful One that You are.
Make your Name glorious, Your Presence compelling.
Come, heal us. Revive my heart with the Breath of the Spirit.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.