Is Millennial Christian An Oxymoron?
Have you seen all the different ways Millennials are being identified and ridiculed lately?
In case you don’t spend much time on social media or don’t care (which who could blame you), the generation we’ve labeled as Millennial (those born from early 1980s-2000s) has taken a starring role in pop culture over the last several months. Although mostly tongue-in-cheek, if you’ve see anything (I think this one is my favorite.) labeling, describing, or explaining these Millennials, it has been pretty spot on.
But, as a result, the entire generation of Millennials have been given a relatively harsh identity in our culture. They are labeled as selfish, self-oriented, narcissistic, entitled. They expect success and can’t deal with failure. They are whiny and demanding and only seem to work hard if they come up with the work themselves or believe it has value.
It seems like it’s rough to be a Millennial these days. Society has it out for you.
Which is ironic to type since I’m on the cusp of that identity myself. I was born in the early 80s, and I suppose some would sweep me into the category along with all the other beanie-wearing, whole juice-drinking, participation trophy-receiving, #nofilter-obsessed nonconformists.
Regardless of when you or I was born or with which generation we identify, I believe we all can agree these labels are rough and probably exaggerated. But, they do presuppose a theme about society as a whole that I believe is true - we live in a self-focused self-obsessed culture.
We see the shadows of it everywhere: All the selfies we have to scroll through on Instagram. Maybe even the fact there is an entire app dedicated to people’s selfies. Or the idea that every person in the US seems to think their opinions are fact and should be waved like banners in the face of others. All the self-help type books and articles that flood our shelves and inboxes. Crossfit / Iron Tribe / Purre Barre / Orange Theory / or whatever new hip fitness class that opens up on a Friday and is filled to the gills by Monday.
And if as believers we have to live and thrive in these shadows, then who do we choose to be? Are we just as preoccupied with self as everyone else? Do we serve Jesus right alongside being entitled and narcissistic?
Can we be Millennial Christians?
Is that even possible?
I think Luke chapter 9 sheds some light on it all for us. We see Jesus speaking to the disciples after His miracle of feeding the 5000. After setting aside the abundance that came from those five loaves and two fish, Jesus saw the opportunity to further explain what it would be like for those that would continue to follow after Him.
“And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:23-24
It is pretty straight forward what is expressed here to the disciples. Jesus tells them that anyone who wishes to go forward in relationship with Him have to deny themselves. Meaning, they have put themselves aside to the point of losing their own personal identity for the sake of receiving Christ’s.
And, if I am being honest, that doesn’t sound too appealing to me. I like my life, my identity. I like figuring out things for myself. I like plotting out where to go on my next trip or which book to pick up next or how to spend my friday night. I like being able to pick and choose who to spend time with or being lazy instead of getting things done around my house or eating really good food.
For the most part, I like being me, and I like being in control of my own identity.
(Maybe I’m more of a Millennial than I thought.)
I think this bent towards self even in me, someone who loves Jesus and wants to serve Him, is something we all struggle with because we are all human. Denying ourselves is not something we will innately desire. Losing our life for Christ’s sake sounds alien to us, the kind of sacrifice that only happens in fairytales or movie plots.
And we say to God, “Hey, that’s a really BIG ask, saying I have to lose my life, my identity. I want to follow after You, but can’t I just follow you and be in charge of me at the same time? Surely it’s possible to do both.”
But the scripture is clear my friends. If we try to save our own lives, we will lose out for all eternity. Trying to follow Jesus without denying ourselves, including all our wants, desires, dreams, and ideas, just won’t work.
He said it best.
“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
A life focused on myself might get me all that the world can give. I might get to pick and choose exactly the things that will make me happy. But at what cost? I lose myself eventually, but, more importantly, I lose the intimacy of true relationship with our Heavenly Father. I lose communion with the Holy Spirit who guides me through life. I lose the sweet daily examples of Jesus’ life applied to my own. I lose the inheritance of a heavenly legacy that has already been set aside for me as a daughter of God.
When I truly weigh out the costs, my life and my own identity will never outweigh the incredibly deep riches of gaining Christ. I never even stood a chance. It’s no contest, really.
What that means for us as humans, but especially as Millennials, is we have some work to do in this Christ-life.
You see, everything about the culture in which we are living is telling us that this “deny ourselves” message is garbage, that it makes no sense. Unless you are living in a hut on a beach on a deserted island with no wifi or you’ve chosen to go completely off the grid on some sustainable farm (which would be very Millennial of you - bravo), you, like me, are being constantly bombarded with those shadows of self-obsession. And they are telling us that to deny ourselves makes no sense in a modern world. It’s only natural to promote yourself. If you don’t, who else will?
So then, if you’re anything like me, most days it feels like everything wants me to turn inward, to focus on myself. Even good things.
So we have to be on our guards, dear friends. We have to know that the shadows will come, and we have to take a stand against them. We have to fight back against the culture we are living in because Jesus is worth it.
Therefore, denying ourselves is the first and most important cost of discipleship in this journey in following our Savior. When we lay aside our own lives and identity, we are getting the ultimate trade-off. The gains are astronomical in comparison. We get Jesus, His plan for our lives, and eternal life in heaven with Him.
And what is crazy, is that our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He uses the way He made us - our personalities, hopes, wishes, passions, and dreams - to accomplish His great work in the world.
We just have to give it all up first.
So let’s choose to be culturally irrelevant when it comes to self-obsession. Let’s be defined by Jesus instead of any label society gives us.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21
Amy Bufkin has loved Jesus for as long as she can remember. Even though she basically lived at her local church growing up, her faith and relationship with The Lord was incredibly shallow until her early twenties. It was then Amy learned how to study her Bible, began to truly commune with God, and her shallow faith began to deepen as she got to know her Lord and Savior. Now her passion is to communicate the same truths that changed her life to young women in as many ways as possible. You can find her on Instagram | Facebook