Q: Lately I’ve found myself struggling in my faith due to legalistic Christian teens in my church. Some of them are spreading rumors that I’m not being “religious enough” because I live in Las Vegas (a.k.a., “Sin City”) and go to a public school. I don’t think my faith should be judged by other Christians, but at the same time the gossip and rules coming from my friends’ mouths have sort of lowered my self-esteem, and made going to church dreadful. Do you have any advice for dealing with legalism among my church friends?
I can totally understand where you’re coming from. I went to a public high school, and was a “good kid.” I loved God and tried to live for Him and grow in my relationship with Him. My non-Christian friends didn’t always understand my decisions to live for God, like not drinking or sleeping with my boyfriend, but I always felt like they respected me for making them. I felt confident in my faith, and I didn’t mind being different from the kids around me.
After high school I decided to go to a Christian college. Ironically, I felt more judgement my first year there than at my secular high school! It felt like they were watching my every move, judging me for what I wore and who I went out with. I felt like they labeled me a rebel and a flirt. I was so hurt by their judgement (or what I felt was their judgement) that I kind of rebelled just to be different from them. Sadly, I made worse decisions in my first year at my Christian college than I made at a secular high school.
It was hard not act like the person I thought they thought I was.
But as much as I wanted to blame my new Christian friends for the changes in me, the truth is, I shouldn’t have cared as much as I did about what they thought of me.
‘Cause the truth is, God doesn’t compare me to his other kids. I am His daughter, and He is only concerned about where my heart is with Him, and how I treat others. The same is true of you. It’s so hard not to play the comparison game, but gauging our spirituality by the Christians around us is deadly. We each have different roles to play in God’s family; we are like different parts of the same body. God puts us in different places, and we each have a spiritual “curriculum” we need to go through to grow in Him wherever we are in life. I love the way this verse hits that point home:
Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. (Romans 12:4-6, The Message)
If God has planted you in a secular school, then be what you were made to be: a light for Christ in a dark world! Here are a couple challenges for you:
- Focus on your own faith.
- Return judgement with love.
- Ask God to show you areas where you need to grow (Hint: He might show you through imperfect people!).
- Be what you were made to be!
Easier said than done, I know. 😉 But this faith stuff is a journey, and as you take it one step at a time, God’s going to honor your desire to love Him with your whole heart. I promise you that. Every city in America—including Las Vegas—needs people like you to fight against the powers of darkness, in schools, businesses, sports teams and neighborhoods. I admire you for following Jesus with your life, right where God has you!