Whether we realize it or not, each of us is a teacher—a model of how to live out the faith we proclaim. We are guides to the generations who are currently germinating their lifestyle patterns and heart convictions. Whether we have kids and teens under our roof, around us in our neighborhoods, or grandkids on the weekends, we are portraying a picture of what Christianity is. From where we find our identity to how we spend our money, time, and energy, we are constantly teaching the children and teens in our lives what it means to follow Christ. Often without saying a word.
Children watch our walk. Absorb our attitudes. Perceive our priorities.
Unfortunately, our actions are often contrary to what we hope to project. “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t cut it when it comes to our spiritual life. Droves of young adults are leaving the church because they see our inconsistencies. Generations of children who grew up in church have abandoned the faith of their fathers because it never became their own.
Of course, there are men and women who grew up in loving, authentic Christian homes and still chose to walk away, but the majority of those who walk away do so because they were taught behavior modification without a relationship with God and submission to the rules without a love for or study of who God is.
What hope is there for change? God is always bigger than our mess-ups. But we can also take a good hard look at our lives and walk forward in repentance and allow God to transform our places of inconsistencies. As we do, we model the life of humility and change that marks the life of a true believer in Christ.
Here are several inconsistencies we may be unwittingly giving the next generation of potential followers of Christ:
Inconsistency #1: The body of Christ can be helpful, but following Christ is primarily an individual pursuit.
Yes, we each have choices to make for ourselves. Yes, our faith must be our own. But the notion that “me and God are good” without a need for His people is contrary to Scripture. A vast majority of the exhortations in Scripture assume the reader is gathering with a local body of believers. The idea that you could be a true Christian and not be an integral part of the church is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Following Christ is a corporate pursuit. You and I need the body of Christ in order to fully know and follow Christ.
Inconsistency #2: A deep commitment to the local church is more of a liability and a nuisance than a lifeline and a need.
I get it. People are messy. My husband is a pastor, and I’ve seen the ugly side of church life. But the call of a Christian to love and serve the body of Christ is not negated when the body is broken. Going to church is not about “me.” Too many of us live as if we believe that loving one another is impossible. And it may be, on our own strength. But what a testimony it is to the power of God if we choose to love those who are hard to love. (Not to mention, often we are the hard-to-love-people who need the love of the church.) Our call to lay down our lives for one another is independent of the responses and neglect of others. When we serve one another, we serve Christ.
Inconsistency #3: God created everyone equal, but not everyone is safe.
If we say that God loves and cherishes all people — red and yellow, black and white — but remain fearful or disrespectful of other colors and cultures, we teach an inconsistency. We need to love and respect people of every nation, epidermis color, and economic status, even if that “threatens” our own comfort and safety. We need to shape our views and values primarily on what the Bible teaches about the dignity of every human being — over and against any other preference. Let’s be driven by biblical values more than personal, cultural, and/or political ones and teach the younger generations that upholding God’s way is more important than any other societal structure.
Inconsistency #4: My home is in heaven, but I’m going to prioritize earthly comforts over eternal pursuits.
So often we live as if our plans, dreams, and needs are more important than God’s plan for our lives. We live with a need to be needed over needing Biblical truth. We seek our security in hefty bank accounts and sturdy plans instead of the presence and provision of God. We are more concerned with our outward appearance over our eternal rewards. If we say we follow Christ, the Bible is clear that we are sojourners on this earth with a mission to carry out until we get there. We ought not to live a life of settling down. We are called to a life of reaching out to the lost and dying souls around us.
Inconsistency #5: Bible study is a nice idea but the Word of God is not an absolute necessity for the Christian.
Ultimately, each of these inconsistencies points to how we treat the Word of God. Because if we see the Word of God as a book of nice suggestions useful to decorate a coffee cup instead of filled with truth that is imprinted onto our lives, then we will live out a pseudo-Christianity that is weak, powerless, and, frankly, Pharisaic. If our everyday lives are devoid of the truth of the Bible, it is also devoid of the power of the God of the Bible.
Do we see the Bible as the very word of God?
Do we know what those words from God contain?
Do we believe that His way spelled out in those words is indeed God’s best plan for us?
Do we believe that God’s best plan is for all of God’s people?
Do we believe that God has enabled all of His people to follow His plan?
You see, if we don’t understand that the way of God is clearly spelled out in the Word of God and if we don’t believe that the word of God is authoritative and inerrant and given to us for our good, then we will never be able to live the Christian life to its fullness. And if we don’t know what the word of God says and actually follow it — if we don’t understand that following the way of God is our greatest purpose here on this earth — what hope do the generations behind us have in learning this way from us?
We must love and follow God for the sake of our own good. But we must also love and follow God for the sake of those little eyes and tender hearts who are watching how we treat God’s Word, God’s people, and the lost in need of a Savior. We must pursue a life of obedience and worship so that we can experience the fullness of God’s presence in our everyday life, but also because of the young souls who themselves are searching to experience fulfillment and security — which they will only find through Christ.
Let’s be Christians who consistently point to the glory of God and the goodness of His Word, through lives that display the character of Christ. And pray that the children and teens in our lives see Christ is such a way that it transforms their lives forever.
Lord, help us.