Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cookie Cutter Christianity

                A few weeks ago, I posted a blog titled “A Bone to Pick”, it must have hit home with a lot of people out there, because it has gotten a lot of hits. It is sad to me, personally, that so many people have been hurt by those within the Church body. Yesterday, as I was talking with a dear sister in the Lord, she was telling me about a young woman that she knows. She used to go to her church’s youth group, but has stopped going because of some issues she had with the way the other youth and youth leaders were treating her. It was mainly focused on her outward appearances; some of the youth as well as the leaders were trying to get her to change some things about her outward appearances- and she took issue with it. As we talked about the issues she was having, a question came to my mind, “When did God tell the Church to try to conform people instead of allowing Him to transform them?”

                “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2
                As I thought more about our conversation yesterday, the words of Paul resonated in my being. After what my children, this young woman, and countless other youths that I have spoken to about these same issues, I have found a constant theme that running through our churches today, and it breaks my heart. The theme that I have noticed is- if you do not conform to the image of what the Church says you are to look like, then you are not accepted by God. When did the Church become the Holy Spirit and have the right to tell others what looks right to God? When did we, as the Church, determine what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God for the individual lives of each and every soul that walks through our doors?
                First of all, I am sure there are going to be some that say the Church is not trying to conform them but trying to help them be more spiritual, more like Jesus. But should we not as a Church point people to Jesus and let Him do the transforming? So what if a fifteen year old girl walks in with short shorts and a tank top on. You say she may cause the other boys to think lustful thoughts. As far as I can tell, man does not need any help in thinking sinful thoughts- they are going to think them no matter what a girl wears. Besides, maybe this girl has never been to church and does not know Jesus. So I ask the question, what right does the Church have to question her heart, her motives or her life before God? Maybe instead of approaching the girl and making her feel less of a Christian because of her clothing choices; maybe we should love her, accept her for who she is and pray the Lord transform her heart?
                Did not Jesus tell Peter to basically mind his own business and stop focusing on John? In John 21:22 Jesus says to Peter, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me.” Maybe we should take a lesson from Jesus and focus on our own salvation before we try to fix everyone else’s. I know I may sound harsh to some, but so many of our youth are being turned away from Jesus because they do not fit with the image the Church has for itself. But what does God want the Church to look like? He wants us to look like Jesus. But not just look like Jesus, He wants us to become like Jesus. And from what many of these youths are experiencing, they are being told they need to go and conform before the Lord can transform. That doesn’t sound like the Jesus of my Bible.
   Paul tells us that we are not to be conformed to this world. The word conformed means to change one’s mind and character to fit another person’s pattern. It means that you fashion yourself to someone else’s idea of who you are supposed to be. Are we not all created as individuals? Are we not all unique and special before God? Then why are we as a Church trying to push cookie cutter Christianity on those that come to Jesus? Conformity is an outward change. It has nothing to do with the inward depths of the heart. It is in complete contrast to what Paul says we are to do- and that is to transform. I see a lot of conformed Christians, but not finding as many transformed Christians.
                Transformation comes from God and only God. You can tell people all day long that they need to change, but unless God does the changing, it isn’t going to happen. Being transformed means that we bring ourselves under the “obligation to undergo a complete change, which under the power of God, will find expression in character and conduct ;”( Vines Expository Dictionary). Conformity focuses on the outward appearances, such as what we wear, our hair color, tattoos, our outward image displayed to others. While transformation focuses on the inward change of the individual’s heart.
                Paul tells us that it is through the renewing of our minds that we will be transformed. When someone tries to tell you to be different than whom you are, they are asking you to conform, when what God tells us is that we need to be transformed by His Holy Spirit, through the power of His Holy Word. So many of our youth today are turned away from church because the cliques tell them they are not accepted unless they change this or that about themselves, and when they have changed that, then they will be accepted by God. But does not Jesus look out over the multitudes with arms spread wide and say, “Come as you are?” When did we as the Church determine who was acceptable and who was not? When did we as the Church decide to take on the role of the Holy Spirit and try to conform people to the image we have instead of allowing God to transform them into the perfect child He desires them to be?
                The generation that is entering the church today looks totally different than it did when I came to know Christ. It is unique all on its own. Who I am in Christ is not who you are- and trying to make me or anyone else fit into our molds of what Christianity should be puts us in the role of the Holy Spirit. And I don’t know about you, but the last time I checked, I was not the Holy Spirit, and neither are you. We may not agree with what some of the youth are doing, or what they look like- but that does not give us the right to try to conform them to our image. We are not God. The Church is to be the beacon that points others to Christ, and then Christ Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit will transform the lives of those who come to Him- just as they are.

                Perhaps we should focus on our own inward transformation and renewing of our minds before we try to fix everyone else? A wise bible study leader of mine once told me, “Stay in your own lane.” Keep your eyes on Jesus, stop focusing on her or on him, and you follow Christ. Isn’t that what Jesus told Peter- “you follow Me”? Maybe we should listen to Jesus and stop trying to make everyone into the cookie cutter Christian the Church has decided we need to be. I am me, and you are you- God loves me and God loves you- just as we are. I will be me and you be you before the same God who died for each and every one of us. In Jesus Name, Amen and Amen.