This weekend I took a trip to the Washington Family Ranch Young Life camp in Antelope, OR, to visit friends with whom Aly worked as an intern several years ago. It was great to meet her friends, Cara and Adam, plus their two beautiful girls, Olive and Gillian, as well as to see a place that's had such an effect on her life. It reminded me quite a bit of my own experiences with Suncrest Camp in Rochester, PA, which is where I accepted Jesus for the first time and felt my life change completely, just like many others before and after.
Thinking about those teenagers who are experiencing Jesus for the first time this week got me thinking about a lot of things. Should I be working in ministry? How much does the work I do really matter? Should I be leading a Young Life group or something like it? Should I just pack up and move to the Ranch? How can I answer God's call for my life in my current job?
One of the thoughts I had this weekend is that it's tough to have full, meaningful interactions with people who have different beliefs than you do. From my perspective, Jesus Christ is the basis of everything in my life. I believe in His death and resurrection, which was the person of God coming to earth to wash away our sins and provide eternal life to His people. This belief provides perspective for everything I do, how I do my job, and what my priorities are.
Frankly, it's hard to work with people who do not have the same fundamental motivations as I do. I love my neighbors and do my job well because there's no way to work with people who have identical beliefs with me all the time, but I find that other people have different focuses or agendas that don't make sense to me. Building up students into future leaders or just future people is hard when I can't just share the gospel with them. Maybe I can, but I haven't chosen to on a regular basis.
When a student is getting discouraged about their job search, I want to tell them to pray. There is simply no better option than to put your life in the hands of God. This is not for the purpose of God creating some opportunity for them to get a better job, but rather for them to be calm and know that God has already provided all they need. As Tim Keller addresses in his "Meeting the Real Jesus" sermon, Jesus isn't going to help us get a job or be a better lawyer (or whatever). That's not the point. The point is that Jesus has saved us from death; a death that we all deserve fully. Whatever happens on top of that is icing.
This thought arose because I was thinking about how it can be easier to be a youth camp leader and talk about Jesus than it is in other circumstances. When a teenager chooses to be at a church camp, their heart is open to the gospel. This doesn't happen as obviously at work or anywhere else, for that matter. Teenagers are open to ideas, especially if you can get the "cool" kids into it. Adults tend to be wrapped up in their own logic and in providing for themselves, while teenagers know they are not fully responsible for their own destiny.
Keller points out in the aforementioned sermon that the "educated" people, of whom I tend to surround myself, basically tend to be interested in creating their own fortune and destiny. The middle- to upper-class like to take the teachings of Jesus, but leave behind the doctrine that dictates the power of God. Rarely does someone tell me that they are into the death and resurrection of Jesus, but not as much into the "love your neighbor" teaching. Take anyone from any background and they are likely to be totally on board with Jesus' teachings of loving your neighbor and doing good.
The poor, on the other hand, see the gospel as just that; Good News! This IS the gospel (Good News in Greek). The death and resurrection and washing away of sins and loving your neighbor is all a part of it.
Educated folks rely on themselves quite a bit. The idea of there being a God who is in control or who has already determined that your sins are forgiven and you can't do anything to make Him love you more or less is something that is hard to wrap your mind around.
The key word there being "mind"; it's faith, not intellect. Christianity requires faith. Relying completely on what I can experience with my five senses is not an option. We cannot wrap our minds around God; if we could, how powerful of a God would that be?
This is just one thought that seems generally unfinished. I hope to continue this conversation with many of you soon.