Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a student that was really fascinating. She made the statement, “I feel like adults always feel like they need to tell teens the same thing. They tell us about how we can’t ever do anything so bad that God won’t love us. Yet, I don’t feel like anyone really wants to talk about the real issue. I get that forgiveness covers the horrible stuff, but that doesn’t keep me from doing things wrong. What if you are a pretty good kid that just messes up all the time?”
Wouldn’t it be nice if sinning was simple? I mean we grab our “Tin o’ Sin” and pop the top. Drink it down and “it feels so good to be so bad.” Well-sinning is pretty easy. I mean we…I..do it ALL THE TIME. I have messed up many times since simply awaking a few hours ago.
The “yes” or “no” issues laid out in the WORD for us those are uncomplicated…
1. Don’t murder anyone.
2. Don’t have any Gods before the one true God.
3. Don’t get drunk.
It starts with the 10 and then we can peer around the scriptures for the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of life.
HOWEVER…what about all the grey areas? I think my conversation made me realize just how much our students struggle to understand how to live for the Lord. There are so many things that are left to interpretation. Another student said to me, “Sometimes I really struggle feeling connected to God, it’s hard to seek Him.”
I wish there were “quick fixes” to the problems. YET- Sometimes I struggle too. Am I sinning or not? I have learned that when youth are asking these types of questions they are making some important decisions on who they will follow.
A better question that fits all of the above would be:
“What can I get away with?”
Many of us have a tendency to see the Lord as some little god that we need to appease. If I do this and that, you won’t be angry with me and life will be peachy. No matter how much we try to tell our youth that living for the Lord comes from a place of knowing Him they still just want to just have a check list of how to make Him happy. Don’t we all at times?
When these “sin” questions come up I believe we need to keep a couple of things in mind:
Is there a clear answer?
I don’t think students always understand really the idea of sin. It’s about missing the mark in following Christ. Jesus nailed our sin to the cross but that doesn’t stop us from being human. Since sin has not been wiped out from the earth yet, it’s still here. We can choose to be a part of it. When it comes to students, they are looking for concrete ways to just get through life. You want to get to the foundational issue. There are some issues that are clear in the Bible. A family member tried to tell me that following Buddha and Jesus was the same thing. No, when Jesus tells us He is the way, the truth and the life and no one can come to the Father except through Him, that is clear. Other issues take our consideration. Don’t get drunk may seem clear, but some will tell you that means they can’t ever sip alcohol while others have no problem getting tipsy. Is the question really about drinking (it could be) or is it about wanting to live life their own way? This is when we move to deeper more foundational ideas that help us to look at our motives.
Where is the heart?
What’s the rationale behind “keep the Lord happy”? If the condition of the heart is “Will this get me in trouble?” then they are probably not putting Jesus first. More accurately they probably do not understand they belong to Him. Their heart is more about trying to keep bad stuff from happening so they can live how they want. We can never “please” God. You’ve heard that none of us are righteous not one, right? No, when we come to be humbled by his unfailing love then we WANT to be his. Do they want to release control to the Lord or would they rather hold on to the life they have been living? This is the deepest question and probably the hardest for a teen. Was this the innocent question of a new believer navigating fresh waters? OR, was this the heart of rebellion that really wants life their own way? Help them to see where their heart is.
What is the Lord really asking?
Is he that proverbial “kill joy,” trying to make our lives miserable? Nope. He is not out to be the destroyer of all things that we enjoy. He wants all of us. All of our love. Every corner of our being to be in full relationship with him. Does anything- or this thing they are asking- hold them back from that in any way?
Sin is a sticky issue and the reality is that it separates us from the Lord, whether it’s big or small. The question we must all ask is really, “Do I want to be far away or close to God?”
When I feel far, did God move or did I?
I think it’s a question we all need to ask in our own hearts.