Walk into any non or interdenominational church on a Sunday morning (or evening, which is when most of these churches hold their services these days), and you will most likely be met with a pleasing sight: throngs of young people in black fedoras, Justin Bieber haircuts, and ripped denim, all lifting their hands in worship of the Almighty. It’s an amazing sight to see in a generation that has such a desire to go its own way to ‘Carpe Diem’ and ‘Do As Thou Wilt‘ without regard for anyone or anything else. I know this picture well, not only because I attend one such church, but because I am one of them. I am the girl in the cool hat and Adidas originals, holding her Venti Chai Tea Latte (3 Pump, Coconut Milk, Lite Water, No Foam, Extra Hot, of course), and jumping up and down to ‘This is Living‘ at the front of your friendly nondenominational church sanctuary.
I am one of the many who have refused to conform to a specific doctrine or dogma of religion, and found a way to allow my faith and lifestyle to collide. In fact, I have realized that the two have never been as contrary to one another as I once thought them to be – thus this blog. Yes, I can have a favorite Beyonce song and not live in fear of the Hellfire. I can hang out with people who don’t believe what I do without feeling the need to criticize or pseudo-evangelize them, or fear that I will be judged for it. I can even wear shorts when it’s hot out (GASP)! For me and every other Christian or would-be-Christian who has struggled to find space in the faith for the things they love and are passionate about, the new (but really not so new) revelation that Christianity is a wide open space is both refreshing and inviting.
But as excited as I am about these new frontiers in our faith, I am also quite critical – and if I’m being completely honest, a bit fearful. Have we perhaps ventured so far out from the ‘conventional’ with this ‘Cool Kid Christianity’ that we have ventured out into a sort of ‘NoGraceLand’? Have we taken Grace for granted to the point that we have forgotten that while everything is permissible, not everything is acceptable?
‘Who’s to say who is and isn’t Christian? Everyone sins – no one is perfect. How do you know what their relationship is with God?’ you ask – and rightly so. We definitely all do sin. And I am the last person to judge how others choose to live their lives against my own standards for living – but I AM free to judge them based on the Christian standards that they say they have chosen to adhere to, because there’s actually a manual for that. For the sake of this piece, and the fact that I know how touchy so-called Cool Kid Christians get with the whole ‘judge not lest ye be judged’ clause, instead allow me to be critical of my own, and see if you can identify.
God’s Word is unchanging – that I know for fact. And yet I often allow myself in certain circumstances to use Grace as an excuse to live contrary to it. In fact, I have found myself in situations where I have all-out bungee-jumped off the Cliff of Sin and Compromise, knowing that the good old Cord of Grace was securely attached, ready to keep me from falling into nothingness, and, eventually, draw me back to my security in Christ. Knowing that the Cord will never break is a crutch for me – a way to be a Christian without really acting like one. I recognize that in some ways, in my quest for true Freedom, I have in fact gone off the edge and lost it altogether.
Paul speaks of this false sense of Freedom in Romans 6:
So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act.
First grade quiz for you: what happens when you mix hot water with cold water? It becomes lukewarm. And according to the Bible, God is not a fan of lukewarm Christianity (Revelations 3:15-16).A lot of scholars have argued what this reference to hot vs cold water in Revelations means, and I’m sure all of them are very correct, but to me, it’s this: You cannot know what is right, and willingly do what you know to be wrong – because, Grace. You cannot preach one thing, or say you believe it fervently, then do the other because you know you are covered. You either know what is right and do better, or you don’t. You’re either in the wide open space, or you’re outside, yet to receive the open invitation to come in:
So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! (Romans 6:1-3)
I get it. We don’t want to seem ‘out of touch’ with reality or the world and all the cool stuff happening in it. It is hard to consistently have to live up to a higher standard – trust me, I know. It can be exhausting telling people you can’t do this or that, or go here or there. I too want to live a ‘normal’ life sometimes without the scrutiny of the gospel nipping at my heels. We want people to see that Christianity isn’t a ball-and-chain lifestyle – and that Christians are cool too – but in doing so, are we contradicting the very Word we are trying so desperately to propagate? In our effort to be hip and fit into 21st century culture, are we, in some ways, conforming to the patterns of this world and not living set apart? In an effort to be real, are we exposing our sins, or are we glorifying them? Are we giving people the impression that this faith thing isn’t hard as hell sometimes? When we get so consumed with how we look, and how we say what we say, and where we go, and how the service flows, do we sacrifice the unadulterated truth for a hipper, fresher version that is empty and doesn’t incite the kind of radical change that an encounter with the being of Christ does?
I think Paul, even way before our time, has insight into how this happened:
The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel. (Romans 7:8-12)
Sin has used Grace to make us indifferent to the law – when what Grace actually came to do was fulfill it.
Don’t get me wrong – I love that my expression of my faith has drawn many people to Christ – and I think I have done as best as I know how to keep Slayed & Saved focused primarily on God and how He informs everything else in our lives. But I am growing consistently wary of selling a fairytale Christianity that is unoffensive and apologetic when Christianity is neither of those things. My faith has actively and consistently challenged my notions of what was acceptable, and it is that challenging and questioning that has built my faith, created change, and brought me closer to God. Being able to bring my faith into every other arena of my life does not mean that I can give up praying for a PRAY hat, or that wearing a cool ‘Jesus Is My Bro’ tee is a sufficient substitute for actually telling people about my faith or living it out. Cool Kid Christianity really is just another denomination that gets so bogged down in the status quo of things that it misses the point of what we are being called to.
Now when someone tells me how ‘cool’ my ‘brand’ of Christianity is, I half cringe. I worry that I have only shown one side of the story. That I have not told them of how I was lying curled up in a ball on my bedroom floor that morning, crying my heart out to God. Or how I am consistently being convicted of one area of sin or the other in my life at any given moment. Or how much I desire within me to do what is right, but only end up in the wrong. My pettiness alone could get me a one-way ticket to hell if not for Grace lol, and I’m actively at war with it within me. Yes, I will fall short – and you might probably see me do it – but may I never in an effort to save face or draw people into my faith try to justify it with a sermon on Grace.
So please don’t call me a Cool Kid Christian or a Millennial Christian or anything of the sort. I am just a Christian. Regardless of my fashion sense, or my obsession with perfect Instagram shots and Becca highlighters, I am subject to the same expectations and standards of our faith that my father was before me. I pray, and fast, and struggle, and serve, and die to myself daily. I read my Bible and underline and highlight with a vengeance. I practice what it says. I call things that aren’t as though they were, and endeavor to bring heaven into earthly circumstances. I plead the Blood and pray in tongues just like your grandma did in the front pew of her Methodist church, singing hymns from a moldy old book. And in all honesty, even with all my hip Anthropologie outfits, I don’t think I look even half as good as she did doing it.