Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Lost Life

I am not a very angry person, or so I thought. But as part of my spiritual formation process, I was doing a personal inventory on my anger. I couldn't really think of anything that makes me mad, so I asked Chandler for help.

"Hey Chan, what makes me angry?" I lobbed the question out there, not expecting much of a reply.

"American Christianity," he answer back, without missing a beat. He didn't even have to think about it. (Aren't kids great!)

Apparently, I have been vocal about some things that bother me--mostly things on Facebook and Twitter. And the passion and frequency with which I express my displeasure has clearly been heard by the other members of my household. I had no idea.

So on this 4th of July, I've been pondering my son's assertion that American Christianity makes me mad. After all, I AM an American Christian. So are all of my family members and many of my best friends. I have benefited from American Christianity, I am sent as a missionary to France by American Christians, and I am financially supported by the same. I am certainly NOT angry at any of those individuals--I am indebted to them.

And as far as cultures go, none are perfect. I'm aware that every country has its own take on the Gospel, and no one has it exactly right. If I single out Americans it's only because that's the culture I know best. I count myself among you. But when living inside of a culture, one often loses the capacity to see the forest for the trees. Living in France has given me some perspective, convicted me, and offered new insights. I guess sometimes those insights make me mad.

What insights? For one, I am disgusted by the constant undercurrent of a prosperity gospel that permeates American Christian literature, Twitter feeds, and Facebook posts.

Because I read a lot, I pay attention to what others are reading and sharing about online. I often pick up books that come highly recommended, only to be outraged by the ideas presented. And I'm not just talking about Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer here. Do we really, really believe that wealth and comfort = God's blessing? Really? That makes me mad! Do we really think that God wants us to just feel good and be happy and find significance? Do we cling to the hope that if we live mostly good lives God will protect us and provide nice things for us? None of that is scriptural. It's capitalist--and that's not necessarily a bad thing as a economic system, but it's a lousy religion. And a lot of Americans seem to believe they are one in the same.

Honestly friends, God is an extravagant God who does love and bless his children. But those blessings have less to do with houses and cars and vacations and more to do with peace in the face of struggles, joy in the midst of great loss, and hope despite dire circumstances. The Bible clearly teaches a theology of suffering. Now it's not that I want my American brothers and sisters to suffer--that's not it at all. For me, the issue is this--if we spend our lives pursuing ease and comfort and then claiming God has blessed us, I believe we live a lie. Jesus said if you want to save your life, you have to lose it. How dramatically different my Facebook feed would look if people were posting (with joy and smiley faces!) how they "lost their lives" today. Instead, we're awfully busy saving and seizing and decorating our lives, and perhaps we're missing it.

Are you pursuing the American Dream, or are you following hard after Jesus? And if you're tempted to answer "both" I want to challenge you. Because I am more and more convinced that it is not possible to do both. You can't save your life and lose it at the same time.

We've decided to lose our lives, but that isn't to say we do it perfectly. No, I often shrink back. But the truth is--God's dream is way better than the American Dream! When I let go of my rights and my possessions and my time and my comfort I find that He always satisfies. And whatever I leave behind for the sake of the King is shown to be rubbish in light of his glory. But you don't discover that until you stop chasing your dreams and abandon it all for Jesus.

Yes, I'm mad. I'm mad that I bought the lie, went into debt for the lie, and justified the lie. I'm mad that I taught the lie, and pursued the lie, and lived the lie. And getting untangled from the lie is complicated and messy and even painful. It means saying "no" to your kids, not because you can't afford something, but simply because they have enough. It means making healthy choices, not because you want to fit into that bikini, but because you finally realize that you body IS a temple of the Holy Spirit. It means giving generously, not because you think you'll get some heavenly goodies in return, but just because you are overwhelmed with compassion for others. That, my friends, is the lost life. And I'm living it!


  1. Jennifer, as you know, we are walking this walk together. It is such a challenge, just so, so hard to know how best to live and die for the Lord. Please Jesus, grant us grace to love you with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. I love you, Jenn.

  2. Excellent post, Jenn. I couldn't agree more. The other issue that I fight is the American Christianity's fusion of "God and Country" which is never more evident than on the Fourth of July weekend! Bless you.

  3. I needed to hear that Jenn, thanks.
    Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord, to the cross where
    Thou hast died. Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Thy precious bleeding side.

  4. Great post, Jenn. A Friend forwarded your article and I heartily agree. Jesus doesn't want us to pursue a life of comfort and luxury but to focus on what's really important: helping people to escape the rat race, find meaning and purpose in life, and of course have a relationship with God.