Check out this quote from Martin Luther.
“The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?”
So, this quote is going to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. But I think that's kind of the point. And I think, as much as anything, there is a practical warning here for those of us invested in leading teenagers deeper in their faith lives.
I think the application we can take from this quote is that the life lived as a disciple of Christ is hard. Simple, right? And yet, I don't know that we always communicate this to our students. At times it feels like we're trying to paint over the challenges we experience as Christ-followers in order to paint a rosy picture for our students of what this life entails. And while I think this comes from good intentions (and while I certainly understand the tension between transparency and over-sharing), I don't think it's a really good practice.
I was reminded of this this week in my personal tile of studying Scripture. In Matthew and especially in John, we see Jesus consistently turning away people, or trying to help them understand how difficult it will be to follow Him. He doesn't sugar coat it. There's no bait and switch.
I'm not sure we always communicate this to those we lead in discipleship. I'm not sure we communicate this in our words. And I am pretty sure we often don't communicate this in our actions.
We have to think about the brand of faith we're leading others to. When we teach a faith that is more knowledge than action, and more head than heart (more “doxa” than “praxa” for all my Greek nerds), we often teach a faith that is safe and comfortable. Or at worse detached and irelevant
If we're to help pass along to our students a faith that looks like the faith of the Bible, a faith that is vibrant, and dynamic, and meaningful . . . If we are to do these things we have to teach a faith that risks greatly, a faith that is stands “among our enemies,” a faith that is uncomfortable.
Why? Because that is what true faith is.
Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble." To present ourselves and/or our faith to students as though we don't experience trouble and doubt and weakness is disengenous. And it takes away from the hope of the rest of the verse . . .
"But take heart! I have overcome the world."
The Kingdom is lived in the messy places with messy people in view of a victorius God. Let's start acting like it.