Never Say Never – Why Jesus Agrees With Justin Bieber
Bible schools are stereotyped to be places to become pastors and places to become pastors’ wives.
There’s no way around the fact. But wait, before you roll your eyes and think that I’m about to strum on the same old six-string chords of love, I’ll ruin the suspense: it’s not about dating. (Editor’s note: we’re aware that about half our readers just exited the page and logged back into Facebook.)
However, there is a slightly new and upcoming trend – and perhaps I’m just seeing it for the first time, perhaps it comes with age, or whatever the case – to revolt from that pattern and declare independence.
While the number is still few compared to those who are dying to date and get married, and after all, it is (ring by) spring time, there is a faint scream from people who don’t want to get married, or at least claim they don’t want to date.
Though I tend to fall into the “hopeless romantic” spectrum of feelings, intellectually and selfishly I catapult back over to the “bachelor to the rapture” side of the conversation.
As I’ve wrestled through this conversation with quite a few people, these are generally the responses and reasoning behind staying single:
“Marriage just seems difficult, and come on, I can do more for the kingdom as a single loving Jesus.”
“I like having my friends and freedom – marriage seems like an old ball and chain.”
“I’ve kept my standards and lived up to them – most people haven’t – so I don’t think I can ever find someone who can live up to the same standard.”
“I dated seriously, it didn’t work out, and it really hurt. Why go through that again when I have Jesus?”
“Girls are confusing.”
“Men are confusing.”
“It would be a financial burden on me.”
The list goes on and on. The striking thing about these responses, is that it always start off with an I statement, usually about how good that individual is, followed by a they statement, explaining what a burden the other person would be.
While I’m going to attack this ideal of the word never, I want to be clear about something – it goes much farther than dating and marriage. How many of us have heard the following:
“I’m never going to be a missionary. Period.”
“I’ll never watch porn.”
“I’ll never have sex outside of marriage.”
“I’ll never get drunk.”
“I’ll never watch The Bachelor.” (Guilty.)
There are some fundamental root issues within “Never” statements that all relate to identity issues and sin issues in a person’s heart. I’ll cover a few.
1. Pride: With all of these examples, the root of the sentence is all about the individual: Who I am, what I can do, where I will go, what I have done, my strengths, my abilities, my desires.
As I mentioned before, the justification of the reasoning is blamed on other: Who they are, what they do, where they are going, what they have done, theirweaknesses, their faults, their (evil) desires.
These statements are usually said with a demeaning and condescending heart towards others.
2. Insecurities/Worry: The second thing that jumps out about these “never” statements is the insecurities. Usually, after placing blame on someone or something else, they start to justify themselves by using excuses.
“I would be a pastor, but what about money?”
“I wouldn’t have gotten drunk, but I was tired.”
Ultimately, many of these “never” ideologies are really cover ups for fears and insecurities about the unknown. Sure, you actually do want to get married, but the fears of learning to be selfless, not knowing if you will be a good husband or wife, worrying that you will become another statistic, all lead you to the reactionary response of “I’m never getting married.”
You would go work for a nonprofit, you know that’s what God is calling you to, but ultimately $60,000 of debt is a lot of money and being in ministry won’t exactly pay it off quickly.
On the flip side, you could say, “I wanted to be a photographer, but I’ll never be as good as her” or “I wanted to be a business major, but I’m not as competitive or experienced as others!”
This is all simply worry and anxiety!
3. Idol Worship: We sing a song at church that proclaims, “Turn from your statues and idols made of gold. Rise from your knees, stop worshipping, the splinters of broken gods, turn and see your King!”
I love that imagery because it’s first scriptural and second it addresses one of the very roots of our sinful nature. “Never” statements are really revelations about the idols in our heart.
We would do ________, but really, we love our situation or ourselves more. Move out of state for college? Sure, but my girlfriend can’t move with me. Go to seminary? Sure, but being a psychologist pays more. Give up Starbucks every day for a month and give that extra money to a couple in my community group? No thanks, coffee is what I need to get through the day.
Idols of people, idols of money, idols of “needs”, idols of self.
At the end of the day, idol worship leads to “Never” statements, because “Never” statements are about us – what we can or can’t be, what we will or will not do, what we want or don’t want, and not about Jesus. Idol worship is all about us, and trying to make the created greater than the creator.
So, as with everything, let’s look at Jesus and the Cross and see what the Bible has to say.
What Jesus says about pride:
In Luke 9, the disciples are arguing about who the greatest among them is. Sidenote, if you and your friends are ever wondering the same thing, it doesn’t really matter, because all of are terrible in light of Jesus.
Jesus’ response? “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is one who is great.” (9:46-48).
While I want to stray away from the topic of how becoming last doesn’t mean becoming some person hell-bent on making sure “he is the least of these,” I do want to point out Jesus is making this point to direct us towards Him and being servant hearts. In the majesty of who He is, we are all last. None of us compare. But, there is hope. By modeling our lives after His servant-hearted life, together, we can enter the Kingdom redeemed, justified, and in that sense, first!
Also see Mark 7:14-23 and Proverbs for more on pride – specifically Proverbs 16.
What Jesus says about insecurities and worry:
“Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25.
What I love about this passage is that it actually connects to idols – pleasures, image, and monetary items – but more on that in a minute. Jesus calls us to live in the here and now. I tell my football players that all the time, that we need to be, “right here, right now.”
If we start living parenthetically (Dr. Thoennes alert), we start missing things. If all we do is focus on Easter Break, we will miss Good Friday, some key notes in class, and probably start zoning out from our quality friendships. If we only focus on frozen yogurt, then we could miss the wonderful strawberries at The Caf. If all we do is focus on the resurrection, and not Jesus’ birth and humanity, we miss one of the most crucial parts of the gospel. If we only think about eternity, we will miss the opportunity to bring people to Christ to celebrate with us in eternity.
So, as Jesus says, stop! Continue to seek Jesus, expand the kingdom, and look to what He is calling you to right this very moment. If you’re a student, then study. If you’re a husband or wife, then don’t just be a good husband or wife, but flourish in doing so and make your spouse see Jesus in a deeper way. if you’re a barista, make the best latte for the worst customer for the glory of God. Get the point? Good.
What Jesus says about idols:
“And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “…You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:18-23).
Most pastors use this passage as way to show how difficult it is to give up money for Jesus. Yes, this is true. However, there is more. This man has an identity issue wrapped up in what he did, does, and can do. He is wealthy, probably respected, and he knows it.
His idol is himself.
Jesus calls us to lay down our idols, pick up our cross, and follow him (Luke 9:23). The earthly cost can be extremely painful.
For those that are well off, giving up a large portion of your income, shrinking down on your lifestyle, and doing it cheerfully can be hard. For those that are popular but don’t talk about Jesus to your friends because of losing their stature, then yes, being persecuted isn’t exactly a fun thing.
Picking up cross isn’t painless. Ask Jesus. But it’s worth the cost here on earth in order that we may hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So instead of claiming that you need that Mocha Frap and a few hours of sleep instead of church, I challenge you to rethink your heart and your identity.
As my pastor once told me, we should be thankful Jesus didn’t look at the sun on the day of crucifixion and say, “You know what, I think I’ll pass on this. I could use some more time in the garden instead of this whole crucified thing.”
Jesus calls us to live sacrificially, not comfortably, he calls us to serve, not consume, and he calls us to flourish, not just live life contently.
So, instead of claiming you’ll be celibate, sober, rich, and comfortable, try to adapt to the idea that God calls us to uncomfortable situations in the least to stretch us, mold us, grow us, and help us flourish.
Stop claiming what you can do, and start proclaiming what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do.
To those who think marriage will be hard: Yes. Duh. No kidding. But after witnessing my parents and couples at church grow together, reflect Jesus to each other, and serve the Kingdom, it certainly can portray Jesus’ marriage to the church and to us in a new light.
To those who don’t want to go into ministry because you have debt will provide. Yeah, you’re going to have debt. Have faith too.
To those who think they have abilities, talents, and control: you don’t. Jesus does. We’re all warped and tainted – more like consumed – by our sinful and depraved nature. Jesus came to claim us from that.
Jesus redeems us. Jesus loves us. Jesus saves.
It’s all about Jesus.
Editors Note: For more on these subjects check out the following podcasts from Reality L.A and Solid Rock Church (Portland, Ore.).
Tim Chaddick, The Help We Need
John Mark Comer, The Art of Yes + No
Solid Rock Church (Guest Pastor, Acts 29): Missional Living in Community
The purpose of this blog is to push people towards the cross, to see and seek Jesus more passionately, and to encourage people to push the Kingdom. For contact information, check out the links on the right.