This Sunday I asked my high school Sunday school class a simple question:
What does it mean to be a Christian? Specifically, what are the beliefs and practices that make a person a Christian?
What did they say? Well…they acted sort of stumped. This was a group of students who had all graduated from our two-year confirmation program, many of whom are regular youth group and church attendees. This was a group of church kids. I know that they know the answer to these questions, but for some reason the room was filled with awkward silence.
So I probed further.
“Let’s say someone at school, a friend or acquaintance, asks why you go to church or youth group, what do you say? Why is your faith and participation in faith important to you?”
More silence. More silence. Finally, one of the students solicited a response, “Well, it’s hard for me to figure out what I would say because I literally can’t imagine being asked a question like that at school.” Everyone agreed. Faith is not something these students are talking about. Faith is something to be avoided. Faith is personal, after all. It’s yours; it’s mine; but it’s not something we should publically discuss.
So I probed further.
“Let’s say we really believe that those who don’t believe in Jesus will be separated from him forever after they die. Shouldn’t we tell them about Jesus? Shouldn’t we tell them about belonging to the Christian faith and why it matters to us?”
Back to silence. More silence. Again, one student was brave enough to try a response. He said, “I don’t think they care. Even if I told them about my faith I don’t think they’d care because they wouldn’t want to change the things they’re doing. They don’t want to quit partying or messing around with girls. They don’t want to change, so they don’t care.”
Interesting. I suppose I can see his point. I can remember high school Chad well enough to remember that he was great at avoiding faith conversations, and even better at refusing to impose his Christians beliefs and practices on his non-Christian friends. So I can empathize. Adolescence is tough. The thought of damaging one’s social standing is motivation for adolescents to do, say, and be all sorts of weird. This can even apply to standing up for one’s religious convictions regardless of how entrenched they are in the life of a teen. As a Christian teen I knew what I believed about partying and appropriate physical contact in dating relationships, but I would never think to impose these same standards on my friends.
So what do we do with these realities? Is what these teens shared true?
1) Faith is Private2)Non-Christians just don’t care3)Non-Christians don’t want to change
I’m not buying it. First off, faith ain’t private! If our faith is private - if it’s simply something that’s good enough for us but not for others – then I question whether we have truly grasped the bigness, inclusiveness, and GRACE of God that is for ALL humanity. Second, I don’t believe that people “don’t care” and “don’t’ want to change.” I do believe that people have a hard time imagining a different life, but this is furthered when those of us who know about Kingdom living don’t model it or demonstrate what living differently – living for Christ – looks like. I refuse to believe that the students caught up in the junk of high school are actually happy and would refuse to change if another, more fascinating, option was presented.
What do you think? Are people resistant to change and indifferent? Or…Is it possible that it’s easier for US to think that’s the truth so that we can get out of sharing our faith and showing them a different way of living – a way of living for others, and for God, rather than self?