If this isn’t the mantra for a younger generation of Christ followers, I don’t know what is. Youth pastors belch it from their hip music stand podiums. Student workers and parents encouragingly and unwittingly pat our (notice that I included myself in the “youth” category) already inflated egos with statements like, “Don’t let ’em look down on you! Go with God!” And other cheesy Christian expletives, as I like to call them.
The sincerity behind statements like these certainly can’t be discarded or ignored. And the validity of the statement itself cannot be argued–it’s God’s Word, and it’s true. The problem comes when this portion of a verse of Scripture stands precariously alone, while the remaining portions seem to be curiously forgotten.
What is the rest? you ask. Well, let’s take a little gander here.
“… but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”
Here’s where the rubber meets the proverbial road. We, the youth, want the respect of our elders. We don’t want them looking down on your youthfulness. BUT we don’t want the responsibilities that accompany our respectable youthfulness. We’re all-too-often unwilling to be an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. We want to scream the mantra of youthful respect from the mountain tops, but we don’t want to live out the rest of this verse–or at the very least we pretend it’s not there.
1. In speech – the incredible power of the tongue – James 3
2. conduct – how we act – what we participate in
3. love – toward each other and toward outsiders – giving to the poor – caring for orphans and widows – caring more about people’s souls than we care about the possibility of ridicule and rejection
4. faith – we ought to blow people’s minds by our faith-living – trusting God financially, medically, spiritually, etc.
5. purity – this is the one area that the enemy continues to attack with seemingly endless success. What the heck is going on? Gary Lamb, somberly proclaimed on his blog recently and in a letter to his church, “I am so sorry that I have given the cause of Christ yet another black eye.” Black eyes are everywhere. The enemy continues to hammer away at the young men (and women) of God’s kingdom–trying to render us useless and utterly ridiculous in the eyes of the world.
We can’t expect honor and respect while completely ignoring the fact that we must show ourselves to be an example of those who believe–an example of what it means to follow Christ. Respect and honor must be earned. They’re not given. There are too many of us lazy Christians wanting respect and honor with no semblance of Christian example anywhere in our ministry portfolio. Something’s gotta give.