March 7th, 2011 by Kristi Stephens
FYI – This post has nothing to do with abiding, really. It is a random tangent born out of many different events and conversations… I hesitated to write it lest it come across wrong. Please know that I am vividly aware of just how far from “arriving” I am – I am simply a girl on a pursuit of Jesus who often fails.
I put it in the comments below but also wanted to add here – this post is a generalization over 30 years in different churches and church culture in general. We love our church and are challenged by many authentic believers there!
There is an interesting sort of peer pressure in the American Church.
- Be good… but not too good. If you really take holiness seriously, you might make other “Christians” uncomfortable.
- Believe the Bible… but don’t get all crazy on us. Just because that’s what the Bible says that doesn’t necessarily mean we should believe it and live by it, right?
- Love people… but let’s not go overboard. If Jesus knew how busy I was and how important my job/ kids’ sports/ lawn work is, He would understand.
- Be honest and voice your doubts about Scripture… if you don’t doubt what the Bible says, you’re probably just being fake.
I have felt this pressure as a child. In youth group. In Christian school. In Christian college. In church as an adult.
My husband and I were just discussing church accountability groups. So many times when we have been in these settings it begins to seem like these are simply safe places to fail – if we have been growing and God is granting us victory over sin, we almost feel embarrassed to share. Sometimes we feel like people don’t even believe us when we’re doing well. Sometimes during group discussion in Christian circles, I feel like I have to hold back my true feelings lest I make people uncomfortable with what I really believe and think.
I once had my high school history teacher challenge me on my beliefs. He put me on the spot in our class and kept pushing me, “sure, that’s what the Bible says. But what do YOU think?” That IS what I think. I believe the Bible is true and that is what I think! My public school classmates rallied to my defense and argued the point for me – she believes the Bible, that is what she thinks! There isn’t a difference between the two!
My classmates’ response was so encouraging to me – they knew me, they knew what I believed, they knew that my goal was for my life to line up completely with God’s Word… even though I was imperfect and often failed. Ironically, I’ve often wondered if my peers would have been defending me in a Christian setting, or if I would have been ridiculed for giving the “Sunday School answer,” for not being “honest” about my supposed doubts, for taking the Bible at face value.
Francis Chan put this in words for me beautifully in Crazy Love:
If life is a river, then pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following Him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream.
Or, to use another metaphor more familiar to city people, we are on a never-ending downstream escalator. In order to grow, we have to turn around and sprint up the escalator, putting up with perturbed looks from everyone else who is gradually moving downward.
I believe that much of the American churchgoing population, while not specifically swimming downstream, is slowly floating away from Christ. It isn’t a conscious choice, but it is nonetheless happening because little in their lives propels them toward Christ.
If we choose to sprint up the escalator after Christ… we’re going to make people irritated. Sometimes other “Christians” are the most irritated of all. We’re not going to do it perfectly. We’ll struggle with pride and trip on the steps and sometimes get tired and just go with the flow for a while… but being serious about following Jesus is going to make us the weird people.
May God make us weirder today than we were yesterday.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…”
Have you felt the pressure to be mediocre in your faith? Have you experienced Christians tending to drift away from Christ together rather than spur one another on toward Jesus?