Christianity is facing a crisis across the globe-the crisis of identity
Once, on the airplane, I was asked a question whether I am a Christian or not. I was traveling within America. I did not rush to answer the question. Actually instead of answering the question I raised another question by asking “what do you mean by saying a Christian?” The answer followed, “Are you Jesus’ follower?”
This was the beginning of our conversation which lasted more than an hour. During this conversation I realized that next to me is a person who claims to be running from God, who thinks of himself not to be worthy of God but at the same time so eagerly he seeks after God-this last one was quite obvious, since he was the one who started the conversations after reading on my bracelet forgive, peace, and love. I realized that David (I do not want to use his real name) became a Christian in a prison when he was about 20. Now he was about 28. He kept telling me that once he denied God and now cannot go back to him anymore. He couldn’t forgive himself! Although he claimed his statement to be true, I knew that he did not desert God! No, he did not desert God, but rather he rejected the corrupt Christianity. I remember before ending the conversation I told him, “Nobody in this world, even the devil, can convince me to keep denying God. Even if I think I have denied him once!”
Worldwide Christianity faces an identity crisis. In 1 John 5:4 we read, “Every God-begotten person conquers the world’s ways. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God.” (The Message) Recently, I have been asking myself the following questions: who are those Christians who truly overcome the world instead of being overcome by it? Who are or where are those Christians who do not fear the world, or do not compromise the world, or do not withdraw from the world, but rather walk toward the darkness, jump into it and overcome it? Or how many are the true children of God who truly resemble and reflect the power and love of God? Actually, how many are those who truly understand that Christianity is not all about doing things, but rather and first of all it is about becoming the kind of human being that resembles Jesus. And how many are those willing to pay the price of becoming the true children of God?
What is behind the Crisis?
In his book “Wide Awake” Erwin McManus writes: “We have confused comfort with peace, belief with faith, safety with wisdom, wealth with blessing, and existence with life.” Additionally I would say that we have confused freedom with taboos, greatness with success, hypocrisy with truthfulness, and courage with fear.
For instance, in Math 5:9 we read, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” (NIV) Thus, God calls peacemakers to be the blessed ones! But we all know that peacemaking is a quite difficult job and very often in order to make peace we may need to give up our comfort. In order to make peace, where there is a conflict, we may need to risk our lives. Sadly there are very few willing to risk what is so dear for them, and this is quite natural. By doing so, unfortunately, we forget that God is calling us to a life beyond the natural, to a life based on his standards and principles. In other words, God is calling us to Christ-likeness.
Often, when God calls us to ‘beyond the standard’ life, we limit God by our taboos and belief systems: we refuse receiving God’s greatness, and by doing so we refuse living out our own greatness. We refuse God’s greatness because we have our own understanding of His isHihhheporiorepgreatness. We refuse to receive what God wants us to give, because it will shake our comfort, because it will shake our belief system, because it will even shake the way that we view God-it will shake our worldview. From the Old Testament we know that nobody can see God and stay alive. This is even true for our days. No way to stay alive after seeing God: we will die for ourselves and live only for God and by doing so we will find our true humanity.
In difficult circumstances, frequently, when we know what is right to do or to speak, we somehow act otherwise. We simply fear to take consequences to our actions of acting truthfully. Because of not doing what we are supposed to do, we indirectly contribute to evil. Therefore, by refusing to actively support good we passively support evil. We read in Math 12:30, “This is war, and there is no neutral ground, if you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.” (The Message)
Winston Churchill has said, “Without courage all other virtues lose their meaning.” Sometimes Christians fear to doing what precisely they are called to: to follow Jesus the way that Jesus calls them. Sometimes Christians fear courageously resembling Jesus and truthfully following his footsteps-this last one is quite costly business. Oftentimes Christians fear becoming who God wants them to become, since God likeness and identification with Christ is again costly. Hence, fearful and timid Christians prevent the world from receiving God’s blessings. Christians want to stay safe at the expense of the world. The world needs us the way God wants us!
Thus, fearfulness, self-centeredness, greed, wrong passion, hypocrisy, ignorance, competition among Christians contribute to this crisis. Fear is a very complex phenomenon and its affects are multifaceted. The most devastating affect that fear causes is that it destroys God’s greatness in us and forbids God to create in us and to work through us.
The 21st century offers great challenges and great opportunities for Christians. In this century Christianity can’t be received as a system of beliefs, or practices of taboos, or simply attendance to church services. People are looking for more. They are looking for a true spirituality that will provide them a true meaning of life. People are looking for a meaning that they would be ready to live for and if necessary to die for. The world desperately needs an example but not a theory.
Actually it is quite risky to allow God to be God in our lives: God’s presence suggests a new construction of our hearts, which is possible only after being fully deconstructed. Great examples to this statement are Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Daniel, Paul, Peter and many others. All these people loved God, but they all paid the high price to allow God to lead them to places that God wanted them to be. As a result of this they all became a huge blessing to the nations!
In Isaiah 55:8-9 we read, “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.”God’s Decree.” For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.” (The Message) It takes a long way for humans to penetrate into God’s reality and start seeing things from God’s perspective. In this process of transformation humans face lots of challenges and changes. When people allow God to take his place in our hearts, He eagerly starts the process of transformation from being a human to being a right human, the one that we saw in Jesus Christ. God eagerly is looking for people who are willing to truly possess Jesus-likeness.
The Emerging Generation These days God is raising up a generation that refuses to accept Christianity as a system of beliefs and taboos. This generation is inward oriented generation that is looking for true spirituality and for true meaning in Christian faith.
Humanity in the 21st century is struggling to find their true selves. In this age of technology and information it is easier to get lost. Life has become very fast, and in this crazy motion it is almost impossible to find our true identity unless we truly stand close to God. The society that we live in does not shape us toward our true identity, but rather destroys us. First thing that the world kills and destroys in us is our identity. The world questions our God likeness, our belonging to God as children of God. In Math. 4: 1-11 we read about Jesus’ temptation. It is interesting to stress that in this passage the devil questions Jesus’ identity by asking, “If you are the Son of God….” The devil was not able to defeat Jesus, because Jesus knew his true identity. Jesus was confident who he was and where he was heading. Jesus’ confidence was due to his close relationship with his Father. Jesus was able to accomplish his mission because he knew who he was!
God is raising up a generation of courageous young people who are willing to be the true followers of Christ. This generation is tired of religion that does not make things any better. The cravings that God has put in our hearts this generation is willing to fulfill. Across the globe, all over the world, there are people ready to hear God’s wild call and follow it. This call can be in many different ways, toward many different directions, but the core of this call is the identification with Jesus, the resemblance of His character.
The principle of simplicity is very simple-to be a Christian is to follow Jesus. To follow Jesus is to become like Jesus. To become like Jesus is to live like Jesus. To live like Jesus is to be identified with Jesus. To be identified with Jesus is to possess his character and courage. Jesus likeness will move us to lay down our lives for the sake of others. Jesus likeness will empower us to be willing to pay the price to bring back humans to their true humanity, to their God-like humanity. Jesus likeness will kill our fears and lead us to places that we are scared to go. Jesus likeness will bring a light to the world!
The 21st century is a pivotal time for Christian history. Would you consider being a part of this history making process by joining the emerging generation of courage, faith and adventure?