I’m outing myself today: I was the kind of “Christian” in high school that wasn’t all that fun to be around. Don’t get me wrong: I was a zealous teenager for Jesus. And I was nice. But boy was I eager when it came to my opinions about my fellow high-schoolers and their wayward ways. I was worried about their promiscuity, smoking, drug use, and R-rated movie watching because those things were just bad. And they were bad people for doing them. Of course, there were other bad things in the world (this was the early 90s) that Bill Clinton and Janet Reno were doing, and the world was just going to hell in a handbasket, according to all of the conservative pundits I listened to (with my high school’s a/v staffperson, in his office, over lunchtime. Whaaa??).
I was a good girl. I loved Jesus. But I was so worked up about all the wrong in the world that a guy friend of mine (with whom I was doing the evangelical teenager’s equivalent of dating) and I decided to start an underground newsletter at my high school. The Whole Truth, we called it. Time blurs the details for me, but I’m pretty sure we mentioned our displeasure about Janet and Bill, Roe v. Wade, the ERA and a whole host of hot topics related to high school life (side note: not all high school opinions carry over to the present day!). I thought we were really brave for publishing this little front-and-back sided slip of paper that told everyone else my opinions about how they should live. I thought I was courageous and sacrificial, spending my Saturday afternoons sweating over a fidgety church photocopier, making copies to distribute covertly throughout the school on Monday mornings. My elders thought so, too. They applauded me, patted me on the back. We all thought I might just change the world with the truth I was peddling.
But here’s the whole truth: I’m pretty sure most of the students in my high school thought (at best) that my little newsletter and its various judgments about them and the world we lived in were just plain irrelevant. At worst, I’m sure I came across as unloving and dishonoring. And all my pundit regurgitations did nothing to point anyone to Jesus (t
he coolest guy ever) who, I’ve since come to believe, is not all that interested in my fretting about anyone else’s behavior. In Paul’s famous epistle to the Corinthians, he made mention of those outside the fellowship of faith, asking: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?” Meaning, people who aren’t followers of Jesus are following a different code. Meaning, they didn’t necessarily sign up for this life of faith and its inherent sacrifices and costliness and moral dilemmas. What business did I have spending so many of my waking hours condemning the way they chose to use their freedom? How was that gonna change the world?
My high-school self left a bad taste in the mouths of unbelievers. Christian? Ick. I wasn’t all that good at love. Mix-your-life-up-with-someone-else’s-life love. And not just someones that looked and thought like me, but someones of different color, nationality, language, gender, orientation, class, and faith.
Christian: It’s Not What You Think is the name of our current Sunday series. It took me a long time to figure out what Christian wasn’t, and I’m ever in awe of the endless ways that LOVE, our greatest currency as believers, can utterly transform the darkest of places and situations, and lighten the minds and hearts of those carrying a heavy weight.