This is the beginning of a series I will be publishing on this personal blog entitled “Pervasive Problems in Cultural Christianity”
The aim of this series will not be condemnation but to point out issues with the hopes of bringing to light ways in which we all fail to be Christ-like and encourage further growth in the Christian walk.
We Pour our Energy into Peppiness, not Godliness.
It seems to be popular among Christian speakers particularly to use an upbeat persona and wordy cheerfulness to try and engage the crowd or be more relevant and attractive. There’s nothing wrong with having a bright personality; in a lot of ways, naturally chipper people are God’s way of giving personal-sized suns to the world.
But, honestly, if that’s all there is then something needs to change. It’s overdone and not glorifying to God when extraversion is exalted over exposition, sing-songy catchphrases are prioritized over the serious of sin, and the focus is on uplifting our self-esteem rather than bringing us to higher esteem and awe of One outside of ourselves: Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit does not need charismatic jargon, a sparkling smile or a jaunty voice to make dead hearts alive or transform believers into clearer images of their Savior.
Cheerfulness not rooted in God but focused on playing to the crowd is idolatry and it ought not have a place in the lives of Christians; nowhere in Scripture are teachers or preachers called to entertain the crowd with buzz words and feel-good sentiments that water down following Jesus to a no-cross bearing, no-struggles life. Jesus said I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) not “I am the “way to feel good,” or “be true to yourself” or “Be the life of the party”
Day in and day out painted-on cheerfulness trivializes the deep effects of in on the world and the sadness and pain fellow believers are experiencing every day. The following are underlying causes that lie beneath the almost-expected happy exterior we are always pressured to show to the world:
We’ve bought the lie that happiness is everything.
So central to the modern American identity is our own happiness and American Christians have lapped that poisonous lie up like they were dying of thirst. And to be honest, they probably were because they were not drinking deeply from the true, living water of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Happiness is not the goal of your life. The first and foremost goal on God’s mind is not your immediate happiness but His glory and your eternal joy in Him and with Him.
Happiness is not everything or everyone would stay permanently happy when they get X thing they want or when X event happens in their lives. But we don’t. The next hour, the next day or the next year we are on to the next “need,” the next gratification to satisfy the all consuming hunger our hearts crave to satisfy.
There is so much more than happiness and we’re missing it because we’re so drowned with items, events, and flashy objects designed to make us happy. We’re so willing to spend countless hours doing what makes us happy–shopping, going to amusement parks, playing video games–but struggle to dig into the Word of God.
We buy into outward appearances and settle for superficiality.
One of the saddest effects is our willingness to accept or reject a person, believer or not, within seconds based on what we see or hear from them.
She’s single because she’s too abrasive.
He’s overweight because he’s lazy.
That kid doesn’t go to the youth group, so he/she must be a bad influence.
And on and on and on. We settle for this because it’s so much easier to judge someone than to dig deeper and share their burdens and hurts, to sacrifice time to help them achieve their dreams or listen to them talk about their fears and failures.
It’s way easier for us to plaster on a smile and say platitudes like:
“God’s got this”
“There’s a reason for everything!”
“Don’t worry, the minute you stop looking for a spouse is the minute they’ll come
than to take time away from chasing our own happiness and sit down with someone struggling to talk through the many examples of God’s faithfulness to His people in the Bible, to listen to the heartache someone is going through, to truly wade into the loveliness of enjoying singleness or even simply invite that kid to youth group.
As long as what we say is said with a positive attitude and a cheery tone, it can’t be unloving, insensitive, unbiblical or offensive….right? Wrong. Very, very wrong. And, in many cases, very damaging.
We have no more power to change reality with our positive thinking than we have the power to make dead hearts alive. There’s a place for lightheartedness–games, women’s events, fun movie nights—but there is also a place for serious study and somber reflection in the Word and what Christ’s sacrifice cost. Fun isn’t everything; it should never be a top priority in ministry.
We’ve lost the beauty of vulnerability.
Christ became vulnerable on our behalf to the point of death on a cross. But we have not truly grasped the great, terrible beauty of this truth until we can be open about our sins and struggles and let go of that artificially rose-tinted life we try to project on Facebook and Instagram. Because our sins have been absolved with the purest blood, we should no longer be enslaved to the fear of exposing them to the light.
I am not advocating that we should shout our specific, intimate struggle with sin from the rooftops. You should, however, be able to be vulnerable and open with trusted believers and small groups with the fact that you DO struggle and with a select few WHAT you struggle with specifically (be it porn or shopaholic-ism or envy or anger).
We’re so focused on peppiness and “positive thinking” that we’ve almost completely forgotten that God commands us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16), not happy. You are not obliged to look and act happy if you are not happy. You owe smiles to no one, not even that one family member that pinches your cheeks every holiday gathering.
But even if you’re not smiling or happy, your inner heart should be rejoicing. Rejoicing over the fact that Christ shields you from the eternal effect of sin–separation from God–and that He was and is and is yet to come back to us, to claim His bride at long last. Rejoice in that every single day in a million different ways.
It’s okay for rejoicing to look different from happiness, particularly in difficult seasons, because it’s much more a state of the heart, one that is presented before God and ever rejoicing that He is Who He is and that you belong to Him. Rejoicing is far greater than happiness because its cause is far greater and fills eternity where you will dwell one day with Him.
–With encouragement to consider these things,