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“Faith is a long shot into the dark. A false sense of security to believe that if we worship and praise someone who we don’t even know exists that we will be kept safe and that hopefully when we die, “if we are good enough for him or her,” we will live in peace and happiness. But the thing about that is nothing is ever perfect, and you could mess up just one time. Kids are told how they will be tormented in Hell if they don’t follow the rules.” 

That was the response I read last week on an assignment about faith and Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust experience in my sophomore English class. And to say I was taken back would be an understatement. 

After compiling around one-hundred-and ten answers, the consensus was clear: 

Generation Z and Millenials may believe God exists, but if He is real, He certainly does not care about our lives personally. In fact, He is a tyrant who seeks fire and brimstone, and if bad things happen to good people, then why shouldn’t we all just be bad people instead?

And I thought to myself, they have a good point.

The Conversation

If the majority of teenagers I teach today are under the impression that there is a God, but He hates them, then I believe we as the Church may be doing something wrong. While I was fortunate and blessed to be raised in a Christian home, most today are not. 

They are living in homes full of trauma, abuse, drugs, alcohol, pornography, prostitution, idolatry, and satanic forms of worship. 

They live in thoughts of self-harm, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, and social isolation. 

They are questioning why they are here, and if God is real, why things like the Holocaust, Russian Revolution, Stanford Prison Experiment, and COVID-19 continue to exist. 

Why would a so-called good God allow horrible things to happen in a world He created?

The Questions

Their hearts grow numb as silence abashes any explanation given. 

And I wish I had the answers. 

But I don’t. 

I have been saved since fourteen, and yet I still lack answers to these hard conversations with teenagers. 

“If God loves me, why did my Dad die of cancer?”

“If faith is hope, then why do I pray and hear nothing?”

“If Elie Wiesel survived the Holocaust, why would God make him go through it in the first place?”

“If I had to live through something horrific like the Holocaust, I would not keep my faith in the end.”

“I believe in God, but you have to live life! You need to bend the rules a little to live.”

It Is Time To Listen 

Friends, it is time we start listening to what this generation is asking and tell the truth of the Gospel message. The Gospel message is full of light, love, and fact, not rules, religion, and fire-filled brimstone with hints of sulfur. 

The core of the Gospel message is love. And while sin and condemnation are essential to the core meaning, telling kids they are going to Hell if they break one of the Ten Commandments is not the way to save souls. 

I am not advocating for a false Gospel message. 

I am advocating that we share the Gospel the way Jesus intended us to do so: with love. 

He Came For Me

In John chapter 4, one of the greatest examples of Christ’s love, and the simplicity of the Gospel message are shared in Jesus’ interactions with the woman at the well. In this short passage, it is clear that when Jesus notes he “had to go through Samaria,” this was not due to His location, but His vocation. 

“Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:1-10, New International Version).

But Jesus didn’t come for water; He came for the woman at the well. And while He may have told her everything she ever did, including her five husbands, it was His love that exude confrontation. He told her everything she ever did not to leave her in condemnation but to show her another way. 

A better way. 

A way of love. 

A way of life.

A way of freedom.

A way of satisfaction that never runs dry.

” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he” (John 4:15-26, New International Version).

Teach Them Well

Like my conversations with teenagers week after week, I believe that Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well can teach us similar principles. 

Faith is not void. 

It is not a meaningless place one seeks to feel better about themselves without the true hope of reality.

Faith is a promise that while we live in a fallen world, Jesus Christ loves us and wants us to live with Him in a place of perfection. 

A place where we don’t need or have to strive to be perfect, but a place where we can rest because His perfection already eternally paid the price. 

And the only way we can preach that love to a hurting society is to show them the way. 

To show them, love. 

To walk with them in the unknown answers and mundane queries. 

Not pretend to have all the answers when we don’t. 

And certainly not to leave them in condemnation when they are already searching. 

Our job is to show them the way to the answers they are searching for.

Show Them The Way

Teenagers are searching for something real. 

Someone real.

We have that someone. 

We’ve met, known, and experienced Him.

The real question is will we be willing to “go through,” our Samaria to meet them?

Not with answers to all of life’s questions, but with someone who can sit with them through them all.

My conversations with these teens have reminded me that we must present a relationship with Christ through authenticity, not a list of rules they have to follow.

We do not seek to present a false reality of the Gospel. 

The blood of Jesus that had to be shed for us as sinners is real.

We deserved to die in His place.

But the beauty, mercy, and grace of the Gospel are written in how much Jesus loved us

That He would die to save the very souls who hung Him on the cross.

It is that love the world is desperately, yet aimlessly searching.

It is that love we are called to show the world. 

Agape, Amber