Binding Youth by Unhelpful Dichotomies

Broken_Church_300x217“I know we’re considered, like, the liberal generation,” says one of our youth tonight as we reflect on Matthew 9:9-13 and discuss plans for our upcoming Youth Sunday.

I cringe a little inside from the statement. Not because I’m conservative thinking, “Damn, the liberals are getting to our nations youth!”

I cringe because this is the language that has and is being inherited by our youth. I cringe because they’re told they need to pick a team and there’s 2 choices. I cringe because our youth have inherited and and are bound by an extremely unhelpful dichotomy.

In the account of Jesus calling Matthew to follow him we find two very noticeable labels: Tax Collectors (dreaded, hated, bunch of no-good thieves working for “the man”) and sinners (a very general term, but coming from a very religiously and/or morally upright group of people). What’s interesting is that these labels are not perpetuated by Jesus. It’s coming from a group of people that’s saying, “Woah, check out Jesus! Do he realize who he’s eating with? Does he realize what these people have done? Does he realize he’s with the wrong crowd?” And I love the response Jesus gives…

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”

You can almost sense a tongue and cheek sense of humor with Jesus, as if to say…

Well, the reason I’m here is to bring healing to a broken world, but clearly you guys have it all together, so it doesn’t look like you’ll be needing me.

He takes an extremely unhelpful dichotomy and turns it on its head.

Classic Jesus.

Jesus gets frustrated with unhelpful dichotomies and the church should be frustrated with these as well. It’s frustrating when people can only be labeled liberal or conservative – especially when those terms are used as reason not to associate with the other team. I just hope we can get out of this rhythm we’ve taught ourselves and that we’re passing on (consciously or unconsciously) to our youth. It’s unhelpful when we’re trying to share the same love that Jesus shows us. It’s unhelpful when we’re trying to go and learn to show mercy and compassion (Matt. 9:13).

As we read the story of Jesus calling Matthew and hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, there was an excitement in the voice of this particular youth as she blurted out, “This is the kind of stuff I can get behind. I get really excited about this! Like, trying to love everybody.”

I hope we, the church, will not learn to squelch the excitement of youth who get pumped up about stuff like this. I hope we don’t get into a rhythm of labeling our youth by the dichotomies that have brought so much disunity to our communities and our congregations. I hope we can get out of the rhythm of labeling our youth as liberal simply because they view the world through a different lens than generations before. And I hope we will not demonize youth if they fit the classically defined “conservative” worldview.

What if we stopped labeling our youth as liberal or hippies or immature in the church? What would it look like to simply acknowledge that they are trying to find the best way to love Jesus, follow his footsteps and love people? And what if we let them do that here and now in our churches – not as “kids” or “teens” but as fully functioning, participating members of our church communities?

Maybe we can live now with our eyes forward as Paul did when he penned these words…

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” -Gal 3:28

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2 thoughts on “Binding Youth by Unhelpful Dichotomies

  1. Great post, Chris! This is largely why I don’t post my specific views on FB or similar communities. No matter what you say, there will always be a “party” that is at the ready to go to battle over it… and sometimes, it’s just for the sake of labeling you as “not one of us” and therefore, “insensitive to our side of things”.

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