Miley Cyrus is back again. And again, while effective, her marketing is disturbing (see her latest photo shoot with German Vogue…actually, don’t see it). I’m bothered by it…just like I’m still bothered by her opening performance at the VMA’s. I know talking about them is “so tired”, but I’m still bothered. I’m bothered by the values of the event that affirmed the objectification of both men and women. I’m bothered by the celebration of a pornofied sexual ethic, that leads to isolation, guilt, and shame in real world relationships, as opposed to intimacy, joy, and deep sense of security when Christ’s beautiful plan for our sexuality is pursued and experienced. And I’m deeply bothered by “Blurred Lines” promotion of the “rape myth acceptance”, that tells the world “with a little force and intimidation, woman will enjoy any type of sexual experience a man wants, especially those that are violent and degrading.” These realities deeply bother me.
But while I am bothered, I must admit I’m not surprised…and I don’t think the rest of us should be either.
When Miley Cyrus first came onto the stage, the song she was singing was her first release “We Can’t Stop”, from her fourth studio album “Bangerz”. The chorus says…
It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can see who we want
My friends, when the underlying theme of our popular culture (listen to the performances from the Grammy’s this past year) is overtly narcissistic…life is about me, about making me happy, about doing whatever I want, wherever I want, however I want…we should not be surprised by performances like Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke. They are simply being true to their worldview.
What should concern us, is how much that worldview has become our own.
I believe one of the contributing factors to the moral failure of my friends in ministry, and the many temptations I wrestle with, is the fact that we have grown up in a culture that tells us we are the centre of the universe. Narcissism as a worldview, combined with our sinful nature, is morally lethal.
So how should we respond? Let me give you 3 questions to ponder to help you leave the centre of the universe:
1. We need to ask ourselves if we have truly bought into Christ’s definition of what it means to be a Christian.
When Christ spoke about what it looked like to be His follower, it seems to me He rarely made statements like, “ask Christ into your heart”, or simply “make a decision for Jesus”. The language He used more than anything else, was language that sounded more like, “deny yourself, take up your cross, follow me”. This is radically counter cultural. This has little to do with pursuing happiness (at least not how our culture defines happiness), but rather a lot to do with pursuing holiness (which is how Christ actually defines happiness).
When we accept this as the definition of being a Christian, no longer is our primary goal in life to avoid difficulty and hardships (nor is it necessarily to pursue them), but our primary goal is to pursue radical, sacrificial service to others, even when it doesn’t feel good at all. Our goal is to be like Christ. Peter said in 1 Peter 2:21, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
So the first question is, “have you bought into Christ’s definition of what it means to be a Christian?”
2. Do your requests, expectations, and decisions in ministry, reflect the significance of the missional call you have been given?
When I was in college, there were a group of people who had been in ministry a generation before me, that spoke often of the need to ask a lot of questions before we accepted a ministry position. We were told to create boundaries, to evaluate compensation, to clarify the expectations of our supervisors and parents, in such a way that we could protect ourselves against burnout. The goal was to effectively pursue Christ’s call to make disciples for a long period of time. It was about being faithful to the eternally significant mission they had been given. I’ve heard myself use that same language (even today I heard myself use that same language). But if I’m honest, it wasn’t so much that I was concerned about the mission, it was that I felt entitled. I deserved it. I’m owed. Now I’m not against “fare exchange”, and many times as the head of our youth ministry, I “went to bat” for our youth pastors to receive better compensation for the work they were doing. But I’ll be honest, it is pretty rare that my disposition is what Christ calls for in Luke 17 when he says,
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
We have been called to the work of changing lives now and for eternity. We need to ask ourselves, are the, requests, expectations, and decisions we are making in ministry about convenience and entitlement, or are they about the effective sustainability of the significant missional call we have been given?
3. When it comes to your gifts, skills, positions and relationships, do you primarily see yourself as an owner or a steward?
In Matthew 25, Christ shares a sobering story with His disciples about stewarding the property He has given them. As many of you know, the main point of the parable is that one day the owner will come back and hold His servants accountable for how they have looked after the property He has entrusted into their care. I don’t think this parable moves us nearly as much as it should for a couple of reasons.
First, we don’t realize that all of our lives, every part, actually belong to Christ. When Paul spoke about his relationship with Christ, he defined it as acknowledging that he no longer lived, but rather that Christ lived in him. His whole life was about trusting Christ. I find it difficult to acknowledge that every part of my life belongs to Christ, there is nothing that I own, I am a steward of everything (my self, my body, my relationships, my possessions, everything).
The second reason is I don’t really believe I will be held accountable for how I steward it all. I know we are not perfect. I know we will not achieve perfection when it comes to stewardship. I love God’s grace…but I should not presume on it. God’s grace does not mean I don’t have to fight for faithfulness, it means I can.
Do we see all of life as belonging to our creator, and are we fighting to steward that life well…even the difficult elements?
My friends, everyone loses when we fail morally…ourselves included. We have to fight to remain faithful…and it is a fight. But the first way we fight, is by realizing our lives are not our own, we were bought at a price, therefore, we need to honor the God who bought us.
We are not the center of the universe.
Sid Koop is Director and Founder of Truth Matters Ministries and is actively involved in youth ministry across Canada.