Does this sound like you?
Some of you reading this article are likely to be 13-18 years old. You may have grown up going to church, going to a youth group, or (like me) have school friends who’d tick ‘Christian’ as their religion.
You might find church boring or a waste of time when you’d rather be doing other things. Maybe the ‘Christian’ activities in your life are getting in the way of gaming, shopping, studying, socialising and… the list goes on. You sit through Bible study or the Sunday service because your parents made you go or…well, you don’t know why. God and his rules are an inconvenience you put up with in the hopes of getting into his good books in the long-term. As a kid faced with a stark choice between heaven or hell, it seems a no-brainer really.
What might happen in a few years
For a lot of you, as you grow older, you will learn that ‘grown-ups’ can’t always be trusted. This might make you feel uneasy about what sounds suspiciously like the church's ‘scare tactics’. You will start asking questions:
- Why should you follow a God who blackmails people into worshipping him by holding eternal damnation over their heads?
- Who would want to share eternity with hordes of unscientific, misguided hypocrites who’ve abused religious power throughout history?
- Why wait for heaven when you can have fun now?
- Why not (if you have nobler aspirations) just roll up your sleeves and devote your life to righting the injustices of this world?
It may also bother you that a powerful and intelligent God could snuff you out at any moment if He feels like it. If God’s track record in this world is anything to go by, He may seem indifferent to the struggles of insignificant creatures such as yourself. Or worse still, is totally opposed to your modest plans to lead a pain-free, pleasure-filled life.
If the above scenario happens when you get older, you will face a decision with seemingly only two options:
1) You walk away from Christianity entirely.
2) You continue blindly following what others have told you all your life about Christianity without really knowing why.
However, there is a third option and here’s what it could look like.
The third option
The third option is, you take a second look at God as an adult. One day, you open up the Bible that’s been gathering dust on your shelf. As you read it, you discover God isn’t anything like the moody, all-too-human gods of Greek mythology. He is not blind to the problems of the planet He lovingly created. You discover that just because the world is currently in a mess, doesn’t mean it’s meant to be. You will also realise that the sorry state of this earth is largely because humans have exercised their ‘free will’ in unwise and dangerous ways. You will understand that as well as being eternally powerful and intelligent, God is infinitely loving and just. Quite unlike the indifferent, incapable God you might see on TV, He cares enough about this world to get personally involved.
You then read about how God was born as a man, walked this earth, lived a life that gave onlookers a preview of the world as He intended it to be, suffered and died to forgive the debt collectively racked up throughout humanity’s history, He then finally rose from the dead to prove that He was right all along. You realise that God’s seemingly conflicting nature of love & justice are fulfilled perfectly in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. This good news (also known as the gospel) is elegantly simple enough for a child to grasp, yet packed with mind-bending truths you could happily spend your life unraveling. Eternity in heaven is suddenly a lot more appealing when you realise someone like Jesus is going to be there.
Armed with this liberating knowledge of God’s character, you embark on a lifelong adventure. You live life to the full, immune to the hollow promises the world shouts at you daily. You devote all your God-given strengths, skills and passion to uncovering how His laws govern the universe, sustain our planet, direct human history and even your own life. You respectfully endure ridicule and persecution, knowing how infinitely patient God has been (and still is) with you. No component of your existence is too small or insignificant to glorify God with. Over time, God seems to grow bigger and more powerful than you originally understood…though in reality He hasn’t changed one bit.
A personal plea
My plea to you as a Christian teen is this: keep searching for the truth. Don’t just accept everything you’re told, whether from your church leaders, the media, your teachers and even your friends. Get familiar with the Bible, get help from your friends and youth group leaders, read articles online, ask questions and if people can’t answer them, use Google. Do whatever it takes to know the God who has revealed Himself and His plans for the world. You have been born into the age of the Internet, where information is freely available, and answers to anything can be found. And what you will find is that God is worth everything.