In 2008, I graduated from high school in Middletown, Maryland, USA and I did a year of college, living at home. Then I decided to join the Sword of the Spirit GAP program for a year of service abroad. I am now half way through my year of service, living with a five other girls in household and serving in Charis Community in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The experience of living and serving here has helped me to recognize more clearly the kind of secular culture and world we live in and the challenge it poses for living as a Christian. Growing up as a Christian in this generation I have always heard, ďBe in this world but not of it.Ē How possible is that in reality?
Working for a Christian youth program is the main part of my Gap service this year. I have been privileged to observe close-up a group of young people searching for Godís love and a personal relationship with him. It has amazed me to see so many of them choosing to attend the prayer meetings every other week and constantly searching for answers to their questions about God. Many of them now seem torn between the world they live in and the new longing they have to grow in their relationship with God.
Living for God's
purpose or for my own?
Many of the young people in the youth program stand out to me. One person in particular has an interesting story. When I initially met a girl, Iíll call her Kara, not her real name, I had no idea she was seeking a relationship with God because it seemed clear to me that she was living a very worldly life. She is very outgoing and unique and we both got along right away. However, she was struggling with a few issues, including a bisexual lifestyle. It puzzled me for a while to see her coming regularly to the prayer meetings and worshiping with us, but without seeing much change in her lifestyle. I could see that she was genuinely praying and seeking a deeper relationship with God. After a few months of conversations with her about the issue of living a bisexual life-style as being contrary to Godís commandment, she gradually began to see that the wrong behavior she was struggling with was starting to make her want to change. God was both calling her and challenging her to continue following him every day. It amazes me to see a young person with that kind of struggle continue to fight for Godís love and try each day to turn away from the worldís influence.
I recognize that many young people who want to live the Christian life struggle with the double life syndrome. Growing up, I have had to make a choice whether to live for Godís purpose or for my own. This decision is not just a onetime thing; every day I have to make that same decision.
How do I live in the world as a Christian and still relate to my non-Christian peers? Does that mean I have to reject the culture around me?
I think no. Rejecting the culture only puts me in a bubble and that keeps me from sharing my Christian faith with other people. The reality is that we do live in this world! We cannot just discard the influences around us Ė If you know the culture but still stand up for what you believe in as a Christian, then many people around you will hopefully see in you Godís light, a light they canít find in the world. I think that people are naturally drawn to the happiness that God wants for them, but many just have a hard time recognizing it.
Live in the world
but not of it
But how can I live out my choice every day to ďlive in this world but not of it?Ē
Honestly, I donít find it easy. The first thing I try to do, though, is to make it a conscience choice and then share that choice with the people around me. Openly telling my friends and family that I want to live out Godís plan and admitting to them areas I recognize I have to change are a big help for me.
I still experience setbacks and challenges. Habits and ways of life are not easy to change. But when I do fall, I try to pick myself back up. I donít need to give up and go back into that torn feeling of living the double life.
One other thing I have learned is that some situations seem to always have a way of bringing me down. It might be an addiction, or self-pressure, or even, at times, a friend I realize may be having a bad affect on me. I try my best to break with those situations and surround myself with people and activities that help me to live in the world but not of the world.
No one, including Jesus, guaranteed that the Christian life would be easy. But to use the cliché, ďWhat is easy is not always right, and what is right is not always easy.Ē In the end, I believe that you will be happy when you choose Godís plan.
I am grateful to God for the opportunity to serve young people in Belfast and for the lessons I am learning about living as a Christian among my peers right in the world.
ďAnd the world passes away and disappears,
and with it the forbidden cravings of it; but he who does the will of God
and carries out his purposes in his life abides foreverĒ (1 John 2:17).
|Theresa Smith is from the Triumph of the Cross Community in Middletown, Maryland, USA. She is currently volunteering as a staff worker for Youth Initiatives in Belfast, Northern Ireland.|