I am gaining a new understanding of the power of the cross this Easter, and it is desperately something I want to pass onto the teens in our youth ministry. Something that I believe will prevent some of them walking away from their faith.
Now, when I say “power of the cross” what do I actually mean by this loaded Christian word? It’s this strange thing that us Christian understand about good coming from suffering, about life coming from death. This is why we call it Good Friday right?
Now, this is a pretty standard line of thinking in Christian circles. “Out of the hardest of times and the greatest of sufferings God can bring life and peace and something new. This is the power of the cross. This in itself is an idea that has so much power to change us and challenge us if we were to simply sit with it and think about the implication it has in our life.
But this Easter God is taking me one step further than this. But before we go there let me just jump back to the last point.
WHERE IS GOD IN MY SUFFERING?
One of the questions I hear teens express most often is this one. “Where was God when this was happening” and its cousin questions “if God loves me, why did God let this happen”. These questions get asked time and time again. I have seen teens leave our ministry and give up on their faith because of questions like this.
We need to be talking about this in your ministry, this needs to be on your radar. However this is another discussion for another post. What I really want to talk about today takes this thought a step further, to a question gets to the heart of this topic. It confronts the deeper theology behind this conversation and maybe reveals why this conversation can sometimes be shallow and lacking in dealing with the reality of life for the teenagers we are working with?
The greater questions is
WHERE IS GOD IN MY SIN?
I have professed with my mouth for many years the fact that God is over everything and is in everything. God is always present. God is a part of every situation and every moment. This is the thinking that so heavily influences the understanding that God is present in my suffering, ready to do something good there.
But I am starting to see that I actually haven’t always believed that. What I have actually believed is something different. I have always maybe subconsciously believed that God is present in almost every part of my life, except when I am in the middle of sin. In those moments I suppose I felt like I had turned my back on God, and so God needed to wait until I was done and turned back around to him that he could come and redeem that moment. My thinking was actually that God was present in every situation in my life, except for the ones where I ignored him or turned my back or worked against his will for me. In these moments, God grace and goodness and power were not present.
However, if I truly believe that God is all powerful and all present in every moment of life. Then where is God in the middle of my sin? This is a question we need to ask ourselves and help our young people explore.
This understanding that God cannot be present in my sin is why you hear so many young people say “but God could never love me after what I have done”. I was always baffled by kids who said that because I thought “well. God just loves you, deal with it”. But now I understand. They are so caught up in their life of sin that they can’t see any way for God to be present in it because God is the opposite of Sin, and where sin is, God is not.
But if we truly believe that the earth is the lords and everything in it – Psalm 24:1
If we really believe that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God – Romans 8:28
If we really believe that God is present in every situation, willing to redeem it and grow something beautiful out of it, then we need to believe that God is present with his goodness in the middle of our sinful acts. Think about that for a while. God’s goodness and grace, present and working as you are sinning.
When you ponder on this, it is truly an incredible thought. Suddenly my sinful acts lose their power over me. They are not as strong and dark as I thought they were. Now that I understand that God is there redeeming me right in the midst of my rebellion against him, suddenly his power grows and the power of my sin weakens.
How, can we help young people break out of this understanding that God is only present in my life when I am doing good, when I have it all together and he is somewhere else when I am being Bad? This is toxic thinking and will be a shaking foundation for a young person’s faith.
How can we help them see God in the midst of their sin? Not just their suffering. How can we help them experience God right there is that moment. How can we help loosen the power of sin in their lives and reveal to them the power of God over every situation they find themselves in and the situations they create for themselves?
HOW CAN WE HELP THEM EXPERIENCE THE TRUE POWER OF THE CROSS?