It’s not getting better, is it?
The elusiveness of racial reconciliation.
Insurgent tensions with police officers.
Mass shootings in public forums.
Terrorist attacks around the world.
Isn’t this the part where Jesus comes back?
Perhaps you can relate to this…
I’ve felt such heartache in realizing my empathy has limits.
While others are experiencing these headlines firsthand, I have the luxury (and blind spot) of deciding if I want to get involved.
Or do I?
The next generation is watching it all and paying attention to our response, too.
So far, here’s how culture has coached them (and us) so far:
- Hope that policy changes occur through government… perhaps by electing a new President or getting “that other party” out of power.
- Join a group pushing a passionate platform… perhaps summed up in a hashtag.
- Grumble and dismiss it all… perhaps at the expense of any real dialogue.
- Promote an all-inclusive rainbow of unity… perhaps by selectively ignoring black-and-white truth.
Again, isn’t this the part where Jesus comes back?
After all, we do have a better option than government developing new laws, special interest groups getting EVEN LOUDER, peanut-gallery sentiments becoming more sarcastic or water-colored handshakes making us think we’re guaranteed that “it gets better.”
We are people who follow Jesus.
The transformation we want to see in the world must grow in us.
How is the world transformed?
Through communities of people participating in transformation.
So how do we lead the next generation toward Him?
I’m reminded of Isaiah’s multi-faceted vision of himself, his culture and God:
“I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim… calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.'” (Isaiah 6:1-4)
- Look at the LORD: Even if you’ve had defining moments with God in the past, it’s time for a new one by intentionally looking at the LORD today. He’s so much bigger than your previous experience with Him… let yourself be transformed by that reality.
- Practically: Students need to know that God gets the first word, the last word and all the words in between on any subject. Practically rediscover this together by studying who He is. Let the holiness of the Father, the purity of Jesus and the power of the Spirit help them wrestle with Someone they can’t tame… but who wants to set them into deeper freedom.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips.” (v. 6:5a)
- Confess: Between Instagram filters and Photoshop touch-ups, we’ve equipped students to put the best-looking version of themselves out there versus confessing our ugliness. Meanwhile, confession is the pathway to truth-telling so our helplessness is owned… to then be surrendered to Jesus.
- Practically: Create productive pathways of real confession in the next generation. Invite them to anonymously turn in on paper their doubts, fears and sins, and then ask for permission to read them out loud anonymously as a group. As they hear how others around them, regardless of skin color or spiritual backgrounds, struggle and need hope they can begin to realize we’re all in need of the same Savior, too. Love and lead them to not just pray for each other, but with each other.
“…and I live among a people of unclean lips.” (v. 6:5b)
- Grieve: At some point, we must stare at what’s happening in the news and let our hearts break for everyone involved. We must weep for the bigot, the one being hated and all spectators of both. Real tears should fall from our faces as we mourn with those who mourn. If you want your students to bleed with empathy, then you and your leaders need to hemorrhage it.
- Practically: Help students age-appropriately gaze at what’s happening in the world. When a tragedy occurs or a tension gets thick, perhaps you take a break from/within a crazy game night and create space to pray through it together. Likewise, add an extra day before your next mission trip to understand and care for the people and needs of your own town before you leave to go somewhere else. By recognizing that we are a broken culture who doesn’t have all the answers, we realize God does.
“Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (v. 6:6-7)
- Reclaim: Refuse to accept yourself, life or culture “the way it is.” We are more than our urges or experiences. Headlines change everyday. Instead of waiting to see what they’ll be tomorrow, work on creating some Jesus-centered stories today.
- Practically: We all want to feel like we’re making a difference, so outreach events and random acts of kindness can help. However, it’ll be tempting to just show up at a prayer vigil or do a clothing drive for a need and call it good. Reclaiming means grabbing hold of something new inside ourselves, too. Jesus makes this possible through His Cross and as we do “God sightings” for Him along the way of our activities.
We do these things not just to put ourselves in the shoes of other people,
but to let Jesus put Himself into our shoes.
I wonder sometimes if heaven leans in and looks at the Church and says,
“That’s the Body of Christ, right? Isn’t this the part where Jesus comes back?”
How are you working this out?
Where do you feel like there’s progress?
Where do you feel stuck?