2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
If you have been paying attention to the outside world, to your kids coming back from college, or to the cultural debate about everything from Sexual Harassment to Race to Economic Policy, you will notice that there is one thing that has gone absent from these discussions. Personal Responsibility.
Personal Responsibility has gotten a bad rap in our culture. I mean, how can you expect people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when you are talking about poverty or the deep systemic issues that are hindering women and people of color. In every conversation I am a part of the issues always are about environmental factors for the situation people find themselves in. (Don't get me wrong, situational factors are significant and worthy of conversation.)
But there is another part of the conversation that no longer gets air time. And on a public policy level, this has some implications, but those are for another day over a drink. I want to talk about how this cultural shift is hindering the work of the church and worse, hindering the work God longs to do in His people and the world.
Kenda Dean published a book in 2010 called Almost Christian, and in it, she described our church's kids' theology as "Moral Therapeutic Deism," a term coined just 5 years earlier by Christian Smith. At the time people thought that this was the fault of youth workers and limited just to kids, but over the last decade, it has become clear that this version of Christianity has taken over all the young movers and shakers in Christendom.
What this simply means is that many young people and those outside the church do not resonate with the word sin, or even that they are broken. If they are willing to concede that we are broken, itis not in the old way we used that word, where we are broken and responsible for our brokenness and the way our brokenness impacts others. That version is so archaic and outdated.
Now we are simply beautiful butterflies who live in a broken world that at times crushes us and hurts us. But we long for Jesus to make us feel better and make our circumstances better. Every "sin" or wrong thing they have done has just been part of the beautiful mosaic that has made them who they are. "No Regrets!"
What makes Christianity so unique is that it is not about collectivism or about group identity. In fact, all of Galatians was an argument that belonging to the group of Israel did not matter in making you right before God.
Back in Evangelism's hay day was the 2nd point in the "Four Spiritual Laws." For all have sinned and fall short of God's holy standard. That is such an offensive statement today. It is unfair that we have a standard we can not make.
But when we embrace our fallen nature and the chasm that separates God and us, we can then begin to move towards reconciliation. Without personal responsibility, there is no reconciliation. And once we find the freedom in recognizing our sin, making reflection and confession a regular part of our spiritual diet, The Holy Spirit will have so much more access to move in our heart and lives and towards the things of God!
The major problems that are facing our country and our world are not simply political problems where we pit groups against each other. Collectivism has proven throughout all of history to have horrific consequences to the losing side. Rather, the church has a unique voice and a unique perspective that is totally foreign to the language of our culture. We see humanity not as groups of people pitted against each other, but as unique masterpieces, created individually for the Glory of God.
Each individual has a unique starting point, unique passions, personalities, and proficiencies. You individually were crafted by God in your mother's womb and individually created for a purpose.
AND, you are individually responsible for the sin and brokenness that you have inflicted on God, the relationships that surround you and the world.
The good news of the old skool gospel is that you/we are not forced to always be at odds with God and with those around us. For a while we were enemies, Jesus came and paid the price for our sins. Not the sins of our forefathers, for our personal sins that personally crush people around us. And because of Jesus' atonement, we are saved in every way! We find reconciliation with God and can now do the work of reconciliation with the world!
Be careful to not slip too far down the slippery slope of collectivism as it pits groups against groups. There are systemic issues that we can find common ground as we work together for solutions. But we must not give up the call for personal responsibility. This will make a difference in our culture, and even more, it will make a clearer pathway to the good news of Jesus Christ.
Just some random thoughts and I have navigated some really challenging conversations on race, economics, sexuality, and spirituality. I would love to know what you think. Blessings!