Much of our teaching in the church, and especially in youth ministry, tends to be very moralistic. We use very manipulative ploys to get nice little Janes and Johns who don’t do anything wrong and know how to stay separated from the world. Many of our parents want youth ministries that form their child to be this way.
Where did we go off course in understanding Christ and His Way? Was it not Jesus who stood against such a religious establishment?
We create clones, drive out uniqueness, get rid of dissent, and make way for …
We support consumerism, successism, and the American Dream. We support suburbia, soccer moms, and over-achievement.
We do all of this for many reasons. But a looming reason is that this is the way that the adults around us want it to be. We have given in to Christendom, the fallen system.
We have made Christianity about sin management. We need to gain a new perspective of sin, grace, humanity, and kingdom living.
Matthew 4 and the Temptation of Jesus. Two and a half of the three things Satan asks Jesus to do were not sin! However, these things did not fit into God’s way of life, the way God intended life to be. All three of the things involved usurping authority, taking control, and manipulation. Jesus resisted doing this. Are these things sin? Not really! God calls humanity in the Old Testament to use our power to control our flesh—sin management. This is a very innate human thing to do. It isn’t evil; however, it can be used for evil and for good! However, it is not the approach of Jesus.
Lord of the Rings—the ring is very powerful. It could be used for good; however, it should not be used because it ultimately corrupts the one using it. In the end it does not accomplish the intended goal.
Humanity should not be controlled. It should be befriended. It’s about the relationship stupid! God works out of humility, weakness, suffering, and frailty. Eternal life, the divine conspiracy (hijacking Dallas Willard’s term), is to recreate the masterpiece of humanity and creation by not controlling it, by not manipulating it, but by coming along beside it and loving it.
So what does a Christian look like? She is loving, joyful, peaceful, etc. What does a Sinful Natured Person Look Like. He is hateful, sexually immoral, jealous, selfish, impure, etc. What does a good, sin-managed person look like? He or she does not ever look hateful, does not engage in sexual immorality, never does anything to look selfish, etc. However, he or she is not loving, is not joyful, is not peaceful, etc.
Good, sin managed people look nice—and boring. They are clean—and lifeless (whitewashed tombs filled with dead peoples’ bones).
So what does this look like in reality? The movie Saved! Starring Mandie Moore is a great example of contemporary Christianity (especially Youth Ministry). A seventh grader in my youth ministry observed the true Jesus figure in the story—the pastor’s son. Why him? He was enveloped by the story of Christendom (the Pharisees and their system), yet He lived out of grace. He was not flashy, coercive, manipulative, etc. He struggled against the system. One important concept we learn from the movie is that the Jewish girl is the first person to show grace in the movie. We see this in the gospel account as well. The woman who pours out perfume and cleans Jesus’ feet with her hair is a woman of very dubious character. The main character in the film is recovering from Christendom and struggling to find and serve God. Micalli Culkin represents the stomped on outcast of everyday society. These three characters represent the three groups that Christendom tries to keep away or tries to reform through sin management. Each of these three people are looking for life, for grace, and for God.