The Scriptures I Use When I Teach On: The Weirdness of Christianity
This is the first piece in our series, “The Scriptures I Use When I Teach On _____.” Our hope it to offer our readers some of the go-to Scriptures we use for teaching on certain topics that aren’t addressed directly by the Bible.
Christianity is weird. No, seriously; Christianity is really, really weird. And this is something I want to continually remind my students of. Think about it: we call each other brothers and sisters when we’re not even physically related. As Baptists, we dunk people in a tub and say that it’s a symbol of someone dying to sin and being raised anew in the likeness of Christ. We eat little wafers and drink tiny cups of juice and say that it’s Christ’s flesh and blood. As Russell Moore puts it, at the end of time we “believe a previously dead man is going to show up in the sky on a horse.” From the outside, our faith looks bizarre. And that is a wonderful thing.
As the culture surrounding our teens continues to become more secular and pluralistic, we want to prepare and equip our youth for coming difficulties. While our faith is inherently counter-cultural, one can only surmise that Christianity will continue to look more peculiar to the world around us. Really, this isn’t anything new. In many ways, embracing the strangeness of Christianity is embracing the faith of the early church. After all, Christ crucified was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (1 Cor. 1:23).
The question, then, is how do we teach our students about the oddness of their faith and the Gospel. If we believe the Scriptures are our guide in all faith and practice, how might we go to the Bible to teach this peculiar topic? There’s probably a myriad of answers to that question, but I like to take my students to John 6.
John 6 begins with a very familiar passage. Jesus feeds 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. This is weird; but we’re usually cool when there’s free food. The passage continues, mentioning that the crowd that was fed followed Christ across the sea because of the loaves—that is, they were looking for another meal. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach the crowd. Here, Christ tells them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). It’s in verse 53 that things get truly strange. Christ says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
What I find so helpful about this passage is what comes after the hard saying. Two major turning points happen in the narrative. First, what seems to be the vast majority of the crowd acknowledges that what Christ says is difficult—and so much so that the passage states that many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. This seems to be the first (and most common) response to a costly discipleship.
Second, Christ turns to his twelve disciples and asks one of the most exacting questions in Scripture: “Do you want to go away as well?” Of course, this forces an answer from his disciples—specifically from Peter.
It is here that I want to zero in with my students. It’s easy to point out the offensiveness and weirdness of the Gospel. Yet, we want them to have the proper response when their faith becomes difficult. Peter responds to Christ’s question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” We want our students’ faith to be so deep in the Gospel that they would look around and ask, “Where else can we go? Christ has the words of eternal life.”
In a way, this sums up our charge as youth ministers. Our purpose, as we minister to our young flocks, is not to lessen the words of our Savior. Instead, we boldly proclaim the truth of Scripture in all its glory. Our goal isn’t to soften Jesus’ words, but to help youth echo Peter. “Where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Join us for Rooted 2015, an intimate youth ministry conference, where we will explore how the good news of God coming to mankind in the person of Jesus Christ offers student ministers and teenagers, hope, healing and connectedness.