Jesus was different. He was really different. I think those in the church miss the counter-cultural nature of Jesus sometimes. It was rare that he actually did what those around expected him to do. He was a rebel (not the Ole Miss kind…everyone knows being an Ole Miss Rebel is a sin). He was an outlaw. He especially frustrated the religious leaders. The son of God was supposed to follow all the rules and “toe the line.” But Jesus refused to buy into a perception birthed from anything other than obedience to God.
I hear much of the same rhetoric when it comes to Millennials. Many inside the church are very skeptical. Church leaders are frustrated. This generation is just odd. They will not follow the rules and toe the line. They accept everyone. They are inconsistent. They are disrespectful. They are immature. But if we remove all the stigmas founded upon mostly garbage assumptions, what I see are some striking similarities to Jesus.
So, was Jesus a Millennial? Do many of the values of Millennials parallel those of Jesus? I believe so.
Let’s look at six reasons Jesus was a Millennial.
1.) Jesus was impossible to categorize.
Want to label Jesus? Trying to fit him nicely into a group? Good luck. No one could get a firm grip on what “group” Jesus fit in to.
“So…you are the son of God, but you rebuke the religious leaders? You are from a poor family, but you claim to be a king? You are a king, but your kingdom is not of this earth? You say you will live forever, but you are hanging on a cross?
I am convinced this is why Jesus frustrated the religious elite. “Just pick a side man. Stop saying you are religious while you eat dinner with tax collectors.”
Just when someone thought he belonged to one camp, he did something to refute it. When people in the world are unable to categorize or label someone they get angry and frustrated. This is the case with Jesus…this is the case with Millennials. They appear to be headed one way, then they change gears. They can’t be trusted. They are fickle. They are different.
Millennials, you are not alone. The inability of Jesus to fit nicely into a certain group eventually got him killed. But his inability to fit nicely into a group also brought salvation to the world. Maybe being hard to label is not such a bad thing.
2.) Jesus believed community and transformation were inseparable.
Yes, the culture today is increasing individualistic. Yes, Millennials are being influenced by it. But I have also seen a large segment of this generation get back to the community Jesus modeled. Why? Because transformation doesn’t happen on Sunday morning. It happens in small, intimate gatherings. Millennials are tired of the facade. Men and women walking into church buildings every Sunday pretending everything is ok. Like a messed up Brady Bunch or something.
Millennials are not concerned with playing the church game. They are the generation of the reality tv shows. They have watched enough people pretending to be something they aren’t.
This is why community is so valuable. It births authenticity. It opens the door to transparency. It is the catalyst for transformation. Millennials know that being a Christian doesn’t mean you cease being jacked up. On the contrary…being a Christian means having men and women that will walk with you through your jacked up condition. The Sunday morning religiosity in American Evangelicalism where thousands put on a smile, some nice clothes, and pretend everything is ok must stop. Now. Nobody is buying it. Community vomits all over any idea that we are perfect.
This is why Jesus modeled it. This is why Millennials value it.
3.) Jesus did not get caught up in politics.
I am going to say something that will bother many of you, but it needs to be said…Jesus was NOT concerned with politics. He did not believe his kingdom would be stretched to the ends of the earth by the government. Politics was NEVER a value of Jesus. Sideways energy.
On one occasion Jesus was asked if he should pay taxes to Caesar, and he refused to take a political stand. His response? “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Give back to God what is God’s.” C’mon Jesus. You are ridiculous. Why give to Rome when they blaspheme God and steal from God’s people?
Millennials also get blasted because many of them refuse to take a political stance. Barna recently reported that 48% of Millennials consider themselves politically inactive (read this Boston Globe article for some more insight). Now, let’s be clear. Millennials are involved in the political world, but most are not taking sides. Remember…causes drive Millennials, not institutions. A Millennial might side with Democrats in one election and Republicans in another. Why? Causes. This frustrates traditionalists to no end.
It especially frustrates those in the church who believe faith is political. Millennials are tired of having conversations about politics in church settings. They are few things more perplexing than trying to politicize faith in Christ. When it comes to political apathy, Millennials are only following in the steps of Jesus.
4.) Jesus did not believe the answer to violence was more violence.
I live in the south, so this will go over like a lead balloon. But like point 3…it needs to be said. Jesus’s ideology of Kingdom expansion had nothing to do with exertion of physical force. Jesus did not encourage his followers to take weapons with them when they proclaimed the Kingdom.
Jesus’s ideology of Kingdom expansion had nothing to do with exertion of physical force.Click to tweet
But we do have an example of someone protecting Jesus through a physical assault. In Matthew 26, Peter grabs a sword and proceeds to chop off a dude’s ear. Yes!! Finally, we are going to get this party started. Take over the world with the sword. But Jesus crashes the party quick. This is how he responds…
“All who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
Just like that the plan to take over the world by brute force was over. You see, Jesus never saw the value in fighting the world with weapons. He came to bring a different ethos. Sometimes I wonder what message the Christian community is sending to the world when we own more weapons than an average military base. Violence is not cured with more violence.
Millennials have grown up in the age of mass shootings and senseless violence. Columbine. Fort Hood. Aurora. Newtown. Virginia Tech. I watched as the World Trade Center buildings collapsed. I wept. A lot. This generation has come to age alongside these unspeakable tragedies…and we are sick of it. I see a new wave of young people realizing something is broken.
Maybe Jesus was right when he told John to put away his weapon.
5.) Jesus did not like religious people.
Jesus loved everybody. Even the religious people. But he spent more time ripping into them than any other group. And he ripped hard. The very people convinced of their religious status and standing before God were the very ones Jesus called hypocrites and white-washed tombs. Ouch. On the other hand, Jesus had an entirely different posture towards the prostitutes and tax collectors. One group received a lot of grace from Jesus…the other group…not so much.
Millennials are increasingly pessimistic and turned off by the church. Millennials see a scary parallel between many church leaders today and religious leaders during the time of Jesus. Many people label Millennials as too tolerant because they accept homosexuals and alcoholics and marginalized.
But I am ok with that label. Jesus had it too.
6.) Jesus believed justice was as important as worship.
Louis Giglio, founder of the Passion Conference, said last year the leaders at Passion believe worship and justice are two sides of the same coin. Amen!
Millennials are passionate about justice. Very passionate. It is in their DNA. They struggle with a church that claims to walk in the footsteps of Jesus but has no real desire for justice. I have seen too many Christians push back against the longing of this generation to restore the brokenness in this world. Maybe it is time to embrace an expanded form of evangelism and mission.
I don’t care what you call it. Social justice. The social gospel. Doesn’t matter to me. The reality doesn’t change. Jesus valued justice. In Matthew 25, Jesus even gives some criteria for entering heaven. Come to church…do not curse…do not have sex before marriage. Wait, that’s not the list? Well what does it say? Those who feed the hungry…welcome the stranger…comfort the hurting.
Don’t lose that passion to restore the world Millennials. It is not a result of youthful naivety or spiritual illiteracy…it is straight from the heart of God.
So, my goal here is not to single out the Millennials as an elite group, but to help everyone recognize that some of the Millennials’ values are not pulled from outer space…they are actually pretty close to the values of Jesus.
What do you think? Join the discussion by commenting below. Also, spread the love through social media.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!