I wrote this a couple of weeks ago but for some reason didn’t get to post it. This is Part 2 of a series of reflections on things that bother me about my generation (and subsequently, about myself).
Part 1 was about how we tend to be overly obsessive about journeying through life’s stages without being too concerned with our destination. Our fascination with newness is a gut-reaction toward previous generations’ focus on oldness. Whereas previous generations emphasized religious tradition or the deification of reason, our emerging generation asks, “Where did that get us?” resulting in a “we don’t care” mentality. And that sort of mentality leads to our seeking the middle ground in all things.
The middle ground is the new standard. It discourages lengthy debates and strong opinions, unless of course these debates and opinions are held against representations of the previous generation. Our generation is united in our rebellion against the older generation’s issues (i.e.,”Where did that get us?”). So the middle ground is the new moral high ground. But it’s not the high ground–it’s mediocrity.
My generation of Christians also seek the middle ground. We see extremes like conservatism and liberalism and say, “It’s not good to be either, so I’ll just be in-between.” So then you’ve got people who don’t cuss (against liberalism) but then also don’t care about spreading the Gospel (against conservatism), or you’ve got people who don’t engage in premarital sex (against liberalism) but enjoy music with tons of sexual content (against conservatism). The Gospel is not the fine line between conservatism and liberalism — it’s the freedom to do what’s right according to one’s Word-informed conscience with Christ-exalting heart motives.
A growing number of Christians find themselves in the tiresome tension between legalism and liberalism. We know conservatism (of the legalistic variety) is wrong, but don’t know any other way to feel like we’re growing in holiness. So either we return to legalism or we fall into liberalism, saying, “Oh well, if God wants to change me he will do it on his own.” I see most young Christians going in this second direction, while the older generation tends toward legalism.
The other option is not a tension between legalism and licentiousness, but it is still a tension. It’s the tension between radical holiness and radical pardon. It’s about knowing God’s holy standards with regard to sin and righteousness, but also God’s holy provision for sin and righteousness in Christ. Jesus says our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. It has to be more radical than the righteousness born of legalism. It has to be born of the Gospel. It has to come from a heart continually being melted by the grace of God in the Gospel.