In 2006 I graduated high school and I believed it was a sin to smoke a cigarette. I believed it was a sin to drink alcohol. I believed the Bible was best understood as a history book. I believed that I needed to try harder every day to be less sinful, and that one day, I would indeed be completely sinless, most likely by the time I was 21. I believed dating was not a Christian thing to do. I believed men were better fit to be pastors. I believed that cursing was a sin, and that if you cursed and died before getting the chance to repent, and confess this sin, than your eternal destiny was hell. I believed that anyone who did not share my views on sexuality couldn’t possibly be a “real” Christian. I believed that the Theory of Evolution was incompatible with the Christian belief of creation, as written in the book of Genesis. I believed that baptism was completely unnecessary and quite meaningless to a Christian’s life. I believed that in order to be saved one must pray a prayer that follows this formula: acknowledge every sin one can recall, ask God for forgiveness and for Jesus to enter into one’s heart, and profess faith in Jesus as savior. In this moment I believed one was justified before God. If this prayer was done correctly, then one could be sure of their salvation, unless one sinned again, in which case the prayer would need to be repeated. The same formula must be used each time. I believed that faithful Christians only listened to Christian music, explicitly Christian music too, it couldn’t be sort of Christian, or else those people simply were not serious enough about their faith. I believed that God would eventually punish me in this lifetime for all of the sins I had committed. I believed that God could not possibly have much in store for my life, because of all of my past sins. I believed everything in the Christian faith was black and white, right and wrong, sin and holiness.
Eleven years later, I think differently about everything I used to believe. Even if I believe something similar, I don’t think about it the same way anymore. I don’t think about God, the Christian faith, or life the way I used to. In every way, who I believe God to be is significantly more complex. After a lot of schooling and a few years in ministry, I still believe in Jesus Christ, but my faith looks a lot different than it used to. If you find yourself questioning, wandering, or believing something completely new, that is okay. You are not alone.
My hope and prayer for each of you is that you will be open to changing your mind, believing something different, and following the Holy Spirit’s guidance in this next season of life. My hope is that you participate in what God is up to and learn to faithfully follow after Jesus in wonderfully new ways.
I wrote this letter for the graduating seniors. After I finished, I thought, “This could be good to share in the newsletter too.” I hope you enjoy. If you are curious about any of this, I’d love to get coffee with you.
See you at Church and around town.