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"In like" with Christ but not "in love"

This is a post to gently remind believers of the importance of romanticism.

Not romance. Romanticism.

If you're a follower of Jesus,  then there's a good chance you're a romantic. You ACTUALLY believe that lives can be transformed from the inside-out; that people aren't destined to blissful ignorance; that transformed lives changes culture, which changes communities which changes cities which changes countries which changes the planet.

You believe in the romantic notion that one day there will be a reckoning that will be swift, terrifying and beautiful all at once.

And if you're a follower, you've probably been a critic of christianized culture (note: not "christian culture") or of the church in general. You've probably lifted a single eyebrow in question at the hypocrisy, ignorance, or lunacy in the christianized version of churches or of society. And you've done so for the simple reason that you care. Deeply. Passionately. Because it matters. Because you're a romantic. Because God is real.


Be careful that in all the critique of the church, of christianized culture, of history, or of misguided politics that you contextualize your critique with Christ-like character/characteristics. In this age of irony and sardonic wit - and of endless self-criticism - there's a fine line between laughing at ourselves and making fun of others. There's a difference between helpfulness and hubris.

I (like you) tire of a lack of discernment or genuine faith within the christianized. But that means I've also got to demonstrate discernment and faith in the context of love. Let me illustrate:

A boy wants to impress a girl. She loves Jane Austen. So the boy reads Jane Austen books and talks to the girl as if he loves Jane Austen. Deep down he doesn't. In fact, when he's away from the girl he actually likes Spiderman comic books. But in front of her, to appear sincere and because he likes the girl, he reads and smiles and pretends.

In this illustration, the boy represents the christianized and the girl represents the Christian and Jane Austen represents Christianity. The motivation of the boy isn't bad. But the actions aren't exactly genuine.

Now let's pretend for a moment you're a friend of the boy. What do you do?

1) Make fun of the boy for pretending? He'll be offended because he really does like the girl and he's confused by the attraction.

2) Double-down on Jane Austen? Some do this by suggesting massive quantities of the Bible or of church or of community service or of missions. But the problem is that the boy doesn't know why he should like Jane Austen. He likes the girl - not Jane.

3) Talk about the irony and lunacy of people who pretend? Yes, the boy will see himself in the the talk, but he'll also be unsure of what to do. It will further his double-life. How can he make himself fall in love with Jane Austen if he loves Spiderman?

4) Find out what he loves about Spiderman and help him find those same things in Jane Austen? Actually, not a bad way to go. He might love the illustrations and the action in the comics. Maybe he likes the irony of the Spiderman character. Maybe he even relishes in the way Peter Parker (and all heroes) is emotionally torn between degrees of "right" things to do. Luckily, irony, wit, action, and depth exist in Jane Austen. 

5) Should girl should recognize the boy likes her and help him build a bridge from Spiderman to Jane Austen? To do so she: a) has to let him know it's okay if he doesn't like Jane Austen even though she loves Jane Austen, b) that even though it's a relational deal-breaker it doesn't mean she won't encourage and support him, c) that she'll take the time and have the patience to be interested in him and let him understand what divides and unites their worlds. The choice to "get into" Jane Austen will be up to the boy, but at least she's removed his need for duality.

Think about it. Now think about how we respond to others who are "in like" with Christ, but not "in love" with Him. They mean well and, yes, they can be major hypocrites. But rather than make fun of them for liking us, we should help them turn that into a love for something bigger than us all.

Or rather: Someone bigger than us all.


By faith he contemplates and studies this great Exemplar of philanthropy. With a holy ambition he treads in the footsteps of his Lord and Master, and learns of him to be meek and lowly, to requite injuries with kindness, and to overcome evil with good. -

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Derek Webster is pastor of Radiate, a new church planting movement in Richmond, Virginia. Derek also works for a national think tank addressing major demographic trends.