We are almost done with our conversation on Skye Jethani series "With" Today's topic is Life for God. This position is just like it sounds. Living a life "for" God to the point of it being unhealthy for self, others, and just a down right misunderstanding of what God actually wants from us as followers.
So far we have looked at three positions Life under God tries to manipulate God through obedience to secure blessings and avoid calamity. Life over God uses him as a source of principles or our favorite doctrines. Life from God uses him to supply our material desires. Life FOR God might be one of the most toxic and one I have seen personally more than any other. Life for God seeks to use God for his mission and gain a sense of personal self worth through doing "work for Jesus."
I attended a conservative Christian college and a less conservative seminary. Both places were filled with people who sought to do great things for God. This is in itself noble really in my opinion. But in the Life for God posture something gets warped along the way in one of two ways. Both seek to find self worth and personal value in the amount and kind of work they are doing in the name of Jesus/God/Church. In college I experienced what was described to me as "unhealthy holy guilt." I didn't grow up going to church every Sunday or anything too dramatic, but somewhere in high school I got involved in the local church, went through a spiritual awakening of sorts, and felt called to the ministry (this is all very Baptist language. For those unfamiliar with such language lets say, I fell in love with the Church and felt led to be a member of the clergy.). I wanted and still want, to do great things with and for God. However at some point I realized I was full of sin. Not even "huge" sin just run of the mill teenage/young adult sin...lust, envy, selfishness, vulgar language, etc. I believed that I could not possibly be of any value to myself or to my God if I continued to allow these sins to keep creeping into my life on a daily basis. I didn't believe that God loved me in spite of my sin but only loved me in the moments I conquered it through will power or a lucky break. I would pray and struggle and cry out to God and friends and ask, "How can I possible by a minister if I have this sin or that sin in my life?" I think many people struggle with this. They want to do great things but feel they are completely worthless until they achieve some sort of puritan work ethic that is completely sin free.
The other possible out come I noticed more in seminary. This type of person was not so much guilt ridden with sin, but instead over compensated with doing good ministry. I mean really good things. There were some students who decided a downtown area needed a more Christian presence, so they bought/rented a home in a dangerous part of town filled with theft, prostitution, drugs, and the like. They decided to befriend these people and actually made some head way into the community. Others worked in youth programs, started theater groups, preached in rural areas, worked with a local homeless shelter, and the list could go on. On the surface this all seemed like we were all super Christians doing amazing things for God in our city. The issue became in our conversations when we began to wonder if "the ministry" was for us anymore. We began to pull away from lives of prayer. We only read the scriptures to find passages about social justice and to shake our fists at those who failed to see them. We had gone the other direction. No longer guilt ridden by sin, but instead driven to do more. More ministry, more homeless needs met, more youth preached to, more social justice, more prostitute pancake breakfasts, more backyard bible clubs, more mission trips, more, more, more. Until by the time we got to our final year of seminary we all wanted to just quit everything. We had all experienced burn out and we had not even been hired yo our first full time church position yet.
Only two more posts to go and we will discuss what LIFE WITH GOD looks like.