I Gave Up Christianity to Follow Jesus

St. Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century in Italy heard a divine whisper that said “Repair My Church which is in ruins.” And he tried to be faithful to that call and bring life to the Church he loved.

Once again, young people like Francis are thirsty for God, so embarrassed by Christianity, and so ready for something more. These are young people who would tell you that they are no longer Christians. Oh, they believe in Jesus and all that He did and stood for. They are Christ followers and truly love Him and follow Him. They are the ones that will tell you, “I gave up Christianity in order to follow Jesus.” They simply find Christianity and Jesus to not be compatible. A sad fact but an absolutely true one.

Here’s the problem: In a survey it was determined that nearly 80% of believers who were ‘strong followers of Jesus’ when asked whether Jesus spent time with the poor – nearly 80% said yes. Later on in the same survey the people taking the survey were asked if they spent time with the poor and less than 2% said they did. There is a disconnect there.

Here’s the lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what He did. We can applaud what He preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore the cross without taking up ours. The tradgedy in the Church is not that rich Christians do not care for the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor and so are not living the Gospel. We are not living what we say we believe. We have lost the way.

The early Church was known as the Way. It was a way of life that stood in glaring contrast to the world. What gave the early Church integrity was the fact that they could denounce the empire and in the same breath say, “And we have another way of living. If you are tired of what the empire has to offer we invite you into the Way.” Even the pagan emperors could not ignore the little revolution of love. Emperor Julian confessed, “The godless Galileans feed our poor in addition to their own.” And the Way had little cells multiplying all over the Empire.

Of course, this was not always an easy decision as we must remember that everything in this Kingdom is backward and upside-down – the last are first and the first are last, the poor are blessed and the mighty are cast from their thrones. And yet in spite of (or maybe because of) this totally different way of life people were attracted to it. They were ready for something different from what the Empire had to offer.

The youth of today are ready for something different than what the Church has to offer – and so they are following Jesus!

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