This time of year stirs something in my soul every single year. I end up feeling sad, concerned, angry, frustrated, helpless, useless, determined, and confused as a result of it. Every year around this time, people put on green shirts and funny hats and celebrate St. Patricks’s day. And for many it just becomes a reason to rearrange the wardrobe, decor and props in a life that is marked by drinking and partying. So Instagram, Facebook and Twitter fill up with pics of people lifting their glasses in celebration. Inevitably in these feeds are people I know and some I feel like I know well. But even if I do not know them well, I know many of their professions of faith. I see person after person, both of drinking age and not, wearing green and smiling while drinking.
A few things before I go on:
- I am for celebrating St. Patrick’s day.
- It still is against the law to drink underage regardless of your religious belief.
- Christians are allowed to drink, but they can’t get drunk. For non-christians, it’s your call, do what you feel led to do.
- Christians posting pics online with alcohol is a wisdom issue. There is a great chance you are not doing anything wrong, but eliminate the risk and don’t post. Pictures can leave a lot up to interpretation. This is especially true with images from a bar or a party like those connected to St. Patrick’s Day.
Well here is the thing I am get concerned about. St. Patrick’s day season highlights the issue, but it is something I see all the time. I feel like there is a version of Christianity that has been propagated in which you can call yourself a Christian but your character does not have to change. Let me be clear to the professing Christian: You can not have it both ways. Jesus taught that saying yes to him is saying no to the world. Yes, Christianity is not built on rules. Yes, you are resting on the finished work of Jesus. Behavior does not make you good with God, Jesus does, but those who are good with God have different behavior based on that relationship with Jesus. Somehow it is being taught that I can say “I love Jesus,” go to the third world and serve, buy justice-conscious clothing, take and post pictures of my Bible with coffee and then still go get drunk because it is a holiday and that is just what you do. No bachelor party, senior year school event, vacation, or holiday are justifiable reasons to live as though God’s decrees are not real. Jesus says (not in a mean voice, but in one that is clear), “if you love me, you will obey me.”
Now I know I sound like I am 100 years old and just one step away from saying “get off my lawn”. But I think the stakes are huge here. We have some “Beyonced” version of Christianity where Jesus can be my homeboy, but I can do whatever I want and those can coexist. That is not real faith in the God of the Bible. It is a form of godliness that ends up lacking all power. It is a recipe for frustration in both worlds you are trying to live. God offers all of us so much more than green beer and silly shirts. He offers us more than the next sexual conquest or another night of laughs. There is more than the trip where I conform to all my friends in the name of image. You think giving up this other part of your life where your character and behavior are altered will be less fun, less cool, less relevant, less whatever. But the truth is, we settle for less fun, adventure, meaning, purpose and joy when we take anything less than what Jesus wants and asks.
A version of following Jesus in which my character is not conforming to the person of Jesus is no real version at all. It is counterfeit. It is dangerous. It dishonors a holy God. Following Jesus means He is going to alter everything about me, especially my character and my behavior.