I need to preface all of this by stating that I truly, deeply love Jesus with all my heart, am a big fan of the local church, and still identify as Christian. Reserve the panic and stay with me.
I grew up listening to the Newsboys and Nicole C. Mullen, wearing a purity ring, attending church camp every summer, and even started my day with good ol’ Benny Hinn every morning of primary school. Needless to say, I very happily grew up in the Christian bubble.
Even now, I work at a Christian school and am married to a pastor – I am still securely in that Christian bubble. The last few years, however, have been a challenging time to be a Christian, particularly a young Christian.
It feels as though people are either angry at my community or my community is pulling me to be angry at the people. Following Jesus feels like a far cry from the Jesus that I would talk to as I walked around outside as a kid.
To faithfully follow Jesus now seems to require petitioning the Holy Spirit to rain fire down on people and God to exercise His Old Testament wrath. The Lion of Judah feels alive and well, while the Lamb of God seems oddly absent.
It is a buzz word in millennial ex-vangelical circles and feels dangerous typing it. The truth is, to be a faithful follower of Jesus now almost requires a deep, hard look at what it means to call yourself a Christian.
Culture, politics, and opinion have usurped the beauty of the privilege of knowing our Saviour and twisted Christianity into being a very specific, finger-pointing, fear-of-the-world-laden, rules driven set of expectations.
Similarly to when I was a child, there seems to be an ideal way to be a Christian. This time, however, it does not feel sweet and innocent. The beauty of learning to love Jesus and being so eager to spend time in His presence is missing. It is replaced instead by the desperate drive to change peoples’ minds and dominate the world.
My husband recently said something in a sermon that has stuck with me for weeks. He said, “Following Jesus is not the same thing and heading in the general direction of something that you think Jesus will not be directly opposed to.” Read that a few times.
How many of the hills that we are willing to die on are not Calvary? Who, other than Jesus, are we allowing to speak into what it means to follow in His footsteps?
Jesus says in His word, “Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me’” (Luke chapter 9, verse 23). This is a verse that is often used in the middle of various sermons, but it has taken a new meaning for me recently.
We are called to “give up [our] own way” and follow Jesus. That means giving up the causes we strongly believe in, surrendering our hopes, dreams, and plans, and trying to find Jesus’ next footstep in the sand. Even if it is going in a different direction from what we first thought.
Challenging your idea of faith and Christian values is uncomfortable. After growing up in the wave of purity culture and Christianity that had a dress-code and vocabulary, questioning anything tastes like the bitter pill of sinful arrogance.
I am reminded though, that following Jesus when He walked on the earth was countercultural. The original disciples were labelled as sinners by their religious leaders and rejected by their religious community.
Our God is Holy, indescribable (read that word without singing the song, I dare you), jealous, and not fully knowable. We can read scripture and spend a lifetime seeking His face, and yet we will never fully understand the magnitude of Yahweh.
God described Himself simply as ‘I AM’ and yet we have the audacity to claim that we know exactly how He calls us to live, laugh, and love!?
The ironic thing about deconstructing/reconstructing is that the journey often takes you back to having faith like a child. I have landed in a place of ignoring what the ‘Christian world’ is screaming at me and instead I am leaning into worship, scripture, and silently waiting on the voice of the Lord.
“About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.
So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me” (Matthew chapter 18, verses 1 to 5).
Jesus says that we are to have faith like a child. Children do not always know right from wrong. They do not always know what they should be doing or who they should be listening too. When they are confused, though, they look to their parents for guidance.
If we are called to have faith like a child then, we need not have all the answers, we need to constantly and consistently seek our Father.
I am not necessarily advocating for deconstructing your faith. It is a difficult journey. I am advocating for growing a childlike faith, to turn your face to your Father and ask Him questions.
While the world is screaming at you from all angles, tune your ears to hear His voice. Do not be afraid to do things a little differently from the world around you, Jesus did.
Petro Lancester is a recent sport leadership graduate from the Miami University and a newlywed wife to her husband, Ansen, who is a worship pastor at their church in Ohio. Originating from South Africa and growing up in New Zealand has given Petro a love for all things sport and travel, and a heart for the importance of community. Writing is Petro’s way of making sense of the world around her and expressing the words God places on her heart.