A recent video that I saw on leadership challenges for the 21st century, that I found to that rare blend of challenging, well-articulated, and encouraging, is from Skye Jethani’s keynote address at a conference last year.
I highly recommend watching the entire video. It’s not a new issue, but Jethani’s resource is one of the best single-source items I’ve ever come across.
But within the video, Jethari shared a concern that really grabbed my attention, and inspired that I write about it.
It’s the issue of passing on to each generation a clear understanding that, in Christ and because of Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
In the video, at one point Jethani talks about a conversation he had with a group of college students, when they suggested they would like to talk about sin in their lives. Turning the topic just slightly (not wanting to hear their specific confessions in a public forum), Jethari had them share, one at a time, their response to this question:
“In the midst of my sin, how does God feel about me?”
Pretty basic question for a bunch of college students who had been raised in Christian circles and churches, right?
Without exception, each of these young Christian adults (some with tears) gave basically the same answer: :God is extremely disappointed with me.”
What I found amazing about this story from 2013, is how much similarity it bore to something I used to do with youth groups 25 or 30 years ago (there really is nothing new under the sun!):
I would go around the group with two questions (usually took up the entire youth meeting to do this):
1. If you could ask God any ONE question, what would it be?
The answers wouldn’t all be identical, but generally around 90% or higher would be some form of “if God is good, why is there evil and injustice in the world”?
2. If God could ask YOU any one question, what do you think He’d ask?
With almost no exceptions, the answers could be summed up identically to Jethari’s story: “God feels disappointed when He looks at me.” Some of the comments would be about “why are’t you doing more” or “why don’t you trust Me” or “when will you get serious about your faith”, but the bottom line was the same:
Their guiding perception was that whenever God looked at them, His first reaction was disappointment (if not impatience).
There are at least a couple of ways you could interpret and respond to this intriguing parallel between Jethari’s discovery last year, and mine from the mid-1980s.
1. The critical finger-pointing church-basher approach:
Shake your head in long-suffering exasperation and deliver a well-rehearsed rant on how the institutional church just “don’t get it”, and use this as another bullet in your church-killin’ arsenal.
2. The pastoral recognition of opportunity:
Every generation needs to “own” its own faith. Every generation will be bombarded with lies and twisted thinking about God and their relationship to Him. Every generation therefore needs deliberate, repeated, very intentional teaching about their Identity in Christ.
Each generation feels the same desperation in their struggle with sin that Paul rants about with such great anguish and passion in Romans 7:15-24:
“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
And each generation desperately needs to hear Paul’s stunning and life-giving conclusion to this very same passage, emphasized with a sense of hope, thanksgiving, and wonder:
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord… Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 7:25-8:2)
There is no condemnation. God isn’t disappointed with you. God looks at each of us through the completed work of His Son and our Savior: Jesus Christ.
Every generation needs to hear this. Loud and clear. It’s an opportunity to bring freedom, encouragement, and life.
There is no condemnation. (Can I get an “amen”?)