He sat in my office with tears in his eyes. I watched and listened, as this 6’5” basketball player’s carefully crafted, tough guy image dissolved in front of me. He said things like, “I’m not good enough, when I’m good enough, I’ll become a Christian . . . . When I get my life together, then I’ll turn to God.”
What he was really saying is “God doesn’t want people like me.” He had previously shared with me some things he has done in his life, some poor choices he had made, and continues to make. His fear was that he would not, even could not, measure up to people he admired. “I’ll never be as good as ______.”
I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for God’s words to be spoken through mine. This young man was seeking guidance, seeking honesty – he needed someone to be real with him, for he was being real. He didn’t want, or need, the pat answers he had heard before. Those responses didn’t really make sense to him because he didn’t grow up in a Christian environment. He didn’t know what unconditional love and grace was all about. This college student was truly, honestly questioning whether or not God could love him as he was.
I shared with him the story of Saul, later Paul. “Yea," he said, “I’ve heard of him before. Didn’t he kill Christians? Is he the same guy who wrote some of the books in the Bible?”
We talked about the change in Paul’s life, and how God had used him to do wonderful things for His kingdom. “I’ve never killed anybody before,” he said. I could see the wheels turning in his mind. If God could use a murderer, even someone who murdered Christians, then maybe He could accept him.
He talked about his fear of never being “good enough," his fear of not being able to measure up to Christians he knew and admired. He also talked about hypocrisy, people he knew who talked of one thing, but did another.
“I don’t want to be like that when I’m a Christian,” he said.
WHOA – he had gone from saying, "I don’t know if I’m good enough", to “when I become a Christian.” That was significant!
“I want to help others like me,” he said. “Others who have come from a rough background.”
I told him that those were the very people who Jesus reached out to during His ministry on earth. And, most likely, the very people He would be ministering to now. And if we are to be His church on this earth, then those are the ones we should be reaching out to, and who better to do that than one who had walked in their shoes. We talked about how effective he would be in telling the story of Jesus to those individuals whose stories he knew and understood.
I wish I could tell you the end of this story. But I don’t know it at this point. I do, however, believe that the end result may not be the most important part of this story. I think the fact that this twenty-year-old college junior, this “tough guy” basketball player, is asking what it means to truly be a Christian, to daily live that out in our lives, is the important piece of the story.
As Greg stated in his post, this generation of college students is demanding that we “be real” in our Christianity – that our actions and behaviors match our words. Praise God that they are not satisfied with the pat answers that were given to my generation. Praise God that they have the courage to question the “establishment," and the conviction and desire to truly emulate Jesus, not other humans. Praise God that they are forcing those of us more “seasoned” Christians to re-examine our Christian walk, and to truly study the life of Jesus. Praise God that they are forcing us to be real!
I heard a speaker ask the question recently, “Are we hobby Christians?” Do we attend group meetings a few times a week, and pick and choose the service projects we will do? Or is this our life – a daily re-commitment of service, of laying down our wants and desires and allowing God to use us as He desires? That’s what my student was asking. His fear that he won’t be able to live it out on a daily basis, that it won’t be real, is what is hindering him. I think that by simply asking that question, he may actually be way ahead of many of us.
Let’s stop making Christianity our hobby – let’s make being Christian our life’s passion. And most of all, let’s keep it real.