We have become awash with the “keeping it casual” mentality. It’s not just our hook-up culture. It spills over into the objectification of others via various social media and it spills into social circles that are a mile wide and an inch deep. But what’s really tragic is when it spills into the Christian’s relationship with God. When that happens, we settle for the lack of substance and the superficiality of a causal relationship with God that leaves us saved, but unchanged and desensitized to sin.
There’s so much on a college campus–or even just available to us at this point in our lives–that is so easy for us to do; so much that isn’t frowned upon in the “keeping it casual” mentality of our culture. This mentality can reveal itself in isolating yourself from another’s needs in order to pursue your own goals, blowing off steam with booze at frat houses, fighting loneliness and desire with some porn, or fighting insecurity via a tinder account where you objectify others and are gratified by their approval, with no intent to form a real relationship–the options are endless. Add to that, socially pervasive and encouraged sins like gossip, foul language, slandering, and resentful anger.
Rather than living “on mission” we slide into a casual attitude towards others, and our relationship with God. This isn’t a new phenomenon for us. In Ephesians 4, Paul had a lot to say to Christians who were living in a non-Christian, pervasively sinful culture. He made it clear that they couldn’t afford to take a casual approach. They had to intentionally take off the old culture and put on the new:
“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
I have to let the presence and person of Christ–His goodness and glory–interrupt my pattern of living.
Why don’t I? I want to keep our relationship casual because I don’t want to change. Encountering Jesus, really abiding in His presence and the goodness of His character, promises to change us. And honestly, I think I sometimes don’t want to.
I’m okay, thanks but no thanks, I’m just browsing.
But that’s not how it works. This thing between Jesus and me is not casual. It is costly. His grace was costly.
This isn’t a passing acquaintance. This is intimacy at its finest and deepest and messiest. It’s me living the the truth that that is already real: I am loved and fully known by God. I am forever covered and interceded for through the blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit is living in me, ready to change me and I don’t want to grieve Him.
The Casualities of not Engaging with Christ
When we take a casual approach to our relationship to Christ, and don’t submit ourselves daily to His Word and prayer, the result is almost always casual sin. Maybe not big intentional sin, but thoughtless, unwise, sinful attitudes, words, and actions that take us away from the life that God wants for us and distances us in our relationship to God.
If I have a God and Scripture parched heart, the stuff that happens behind closed doors, the attitude of my heart, the way I see people and relate to them, and the words that spill out of me are definitely not going to reflect the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). In a casual relationship with Christ, we can only fake spiritual fruit –regardless of the Godly influences of around us. Maybe a godly person coming into your life interrupts your patterns of living. Maybe moving to college, away from the people and the places where things were easy and comfortable has interrupted your life and you’re torn between the influence of Cru versus the influence of college culture. Maybe something else entirely. I don’t know. But I do know that these novel interruptions can only point you to Jesus–they can’t change you or me from the inside out like Jesus can and we need to commit to a serious relationship with Him.
So, I guess I’m saying that this casual approach to our relationship with our Savior which results in “casual sin” should bother you and me – maybe first of all, because it taints our witness. Yes, God works through sinful people, but we can be amazed at what He does through submitted people.
Wanting to have a good witness is a great and God given desire, but extrinsic motivation rather than God breathed restoration will always fade away. In other words, if I’m just stapling fruit of the spirit onto my exterior in order to be a witness, then I’m heading towards bitter ends. Patterns of sin aren’t just habits, they are the outworking of our hearts. The outcome of our spiritual sustenance. If I indulge in fear of man and lust and pride and isolation, should I be surprised when the result is sin? To take off our old nature and bear real fruit requires more than a casual approach.
I can see a difference in my relationship with God this semester vs. last semester. Last semester I was spending so much more time in God’s Word and in prayer. And I saw fruit in my life that grew naturally and it seemed like people were attracted to the presence of Jesus within me. It was like they knew.
This semester, I haven’t been as faithful in my prayer life or quiet time and I’ve seen myself become a lot less patient, kind, gentle, wise, etc. So, this is me talking to myself as much as it is me sharing my thoughts with all of you. I need focused prayer and the study of Scripture to be the primary theme in my daily life in order for me to have the discernment and strength to reject casual sin, prioritize real Christian community, and bear fruit that results in redemptive relationships.