Stephen Jaques: The Cost of Being a Christian

Posted by in Faith,Temptation | September 9, 2013

living-in-a-bubble

Editor’s Note: Having young men like Stephen Jaques, who are willing to struggle with scripture and its implications, is a testament to the brotherhood of IRON and FIRE and their dedication to living out their faith. Often, we find ourselves wishing that someone would step up and ask the difficult questions, even if the answers are hard to find and often harder to live with. Stephen isn’t satisfied with surface-level answers or expectations, and we shouldn’t be either. Thanks to Stephen for sharing a part of his journey!

“The Gospel is a simple message to grasp; and yet it also has huge implications and so much to say about living life that there is no way we can cover it all in one place. The gospel is multi-faceted and all of the implications should be considered; because, to just walk down one path repeatedly, would mean missing out on other aspects. For example, talking about freedom in Christ exclusively might lead to licentiousness – but not talking about it can lead to legalism. Today, and over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the cost of being a Christian; and this entry is about the cost, at the risk of downplaying the joy.

The closer I get to the Gospel, the more I realize that there are certain parts that are really unpleasant to act upon. Gospel Lite as Steve Brown calls it, is really easy to sell. The Gospel however, is impossible to sell. Everybody loves hearing about eternal life, free grace, and all the other wonderful things about Christianity. But nobody wants to hear about being hated for being a Christian. Nobody wants to hear about living a step or two below your means so that more of your resources can go to the needy. They’d rather hear about God blessing people with prosperity. And I don’t blame them.

When you grow up in the church like me, it’s really easy to start thinking in a bubble because you lived in a bubble. John 17:14-16 is the foundation for the phrase being in the world, but not of it. It’s one of the greatest challenges we face as Christians. It’s really easy to be a Christian when your life is spent living in Christian fortresses like mine. Inside you have to deal with things like self-righteousness, but nobody thinks you’re stupid for being a Christian. Nobody laughs at your decision to wait until marriage to have sex. Nobody assumes that you are intolerant. And nobody makes you feel uncomfortable when you talk about Jesus. But after some time at UGA, I came to the realization that the Christian was never intended to live in the fortress. They’re meant to live in the world; to be salt and light. And that’s costly, and difficult, and requires a lot of grace, because it’s really easy to become of the world, and not just in it.

I worked at Snelling Dining Hall for three years during my time at UGA. Originally, I was just there because I needed the paycheck; but eventually, I made a lot of friends among my co-workers and began hanging out with them during my senior year. Through these friends, I met a girl and we hit it off at the beginning of the spring semester. She caught my eye, and I caught hers, and she seemed to be exactly what I wanted. So, at the advice of a mentor, I created a list of seven deal-makers/breakers that I could use to decide whether a girl was dateable or not. This girl met all of them and even the extra ideals that weren’t on the list – all of them that is, except for the most important one. She was not pursuing Jesus. She was a classic Southern cultural Christian who had grown up going to church, but had never really committed her life to Christ. I felt convicted. I knew I shouldn’t stay with her, but I got advice from others for confirmation. They confirmed what I already knew; I couldn’t stay with her. I spent several days by myself in the dishroom at Snelling, raging at God for teasing me with a beautiful, sweet, 6/7, Southern belle that I couldn’t have. And the hardest part was that He didn’t take her away; He gave me the option to choose. I could choose to stay with her, or I could obey His command to not be unequally yoked, and deny myself. It was the first time I had ever been asked to really count the cost of following Jesus. It was not fun but I chose to break it off. They don’t talk about these kinds of decisions when you go to an altar call.

It wasn’t long before I found myself in the same situation. She was similar to the first. She was a 6/7 who, I found out soon enough, was no longer a believer. Her father had taken the family out of the church when the pastor had made him feel very unwelcome for having doubts. (Isn’t that just the worst? It’s so tragic when Christians and their churches have no room for flawed people.) And I had to make the same gut-wrenching decision again. Do I trust that God is right when He says do not be unequally yoked? Do I pursue what seems like it could be a thriving relationship, or do I accept that God knows that whatever good might be in it would ultimately be corrupted? Well, I once again chose the latter, but this time, while we stayed friends, the relationship still remained intimate. The story takes a detour here. Both of us were saving ourselves for marriage; but that didn’t stop us from having lesser forms of casual intimacy. I still wonder about those decisions, but I know this; I finally learned why God forbids sex before marriage and discourages sexual activity before marriage. It is not because He made an arbitrary rule. (Maybe I’m the only one, but I felt that growing up in church, everyone was so concerned with the behavior that they didn’t bother to explain the reason why the command is there in the first place.) I think it is because sexual activity always builds intimacy. Now, this intimacy is supposed to be a state of a relationship where all that I am is known by someone else who thinks that the real me is cool and exciting and loveable. Sexual intimacy without the commitment tricks my heart into thinking that the girl really knows me and loves me when in reality she may barely understand me. And if I have enough cheap intimacy, eventually that starts to corrode my ability to have genuine intimacy with a future bride. So be wise brothers, about where you allow yourself to go.

So here I am now, having passed up two lovely 6/7s. This story doesn’t have a happy ending yet. God has not awarded me with a beautiful Christian girl for making the right decision and there is no guarantee that He will. Instead I get to go back to the Christian dating scene where many have little idea of how to talk to the opposite sex, and that beautiful Christian girl might break up with me because it’s God’s will or because I can’t live up to her towering expectations that I be Prince Charming and Jesus at the same time. It was so much easier to please those other non-Christian girls than any of the Christian girls I’ve dated. I see those girls on my newsfeed and sometimes I say, “Oh God, if only…” I count the cost, and it’s not cheap, and it doesn’t feel good. I can’t see the payoff yet, but I acted on what I knew to be true, despite the fact that my heart didn’t want to buy it. I know, that because my heart trusts God, eventually it will start believing what my head already knows to be true.

We are studying the book of James in Core 2:42 right now and James opens by telling the brothers to, “Count it all joy, whenever you meet trials of various kinds.” What my brothers in IRON and FIRE found during our discussion, was that he could have easily said, “Consider the joy of Christ’s work on the cross, whenever you meet trials of various kinds.” It’s His work on the cross that brings us joy in life, not slapping a smile on our face to hide the pain. Some days my heart just doesn’t feel like choosing to look away from my pain, and toward the Son. I’d rather dwell on the cost and the pain and ask Him to make it go away. But God usually doesn’t reduce the cost, He just provides the joy of Himself that makes the cost bearable. And so I have to, as Randy Pope says, “Talk [truth] to my heart, not listen to it.” You know, sometimes the world is going to insist that I compromise, and not doing so may lead to awkward misunderstandings, and cost me success, relationships, family, reputation, maybe even my life. The alternative, the right thing, may look deeply unattractive. The cost is high, undeniably so. But after counting the cost, consider the source of our joy. Our hope is secure. The cost is temporary; but the joy is eternal.

So that no one congratulates me for my holiness can I please just say that I’m really not an expert at applying what I just wrote? Some days I struggle really hard to believe the words I’m writing. And some days, the days when I am awed by the grace of God, I do believe. And I trust that God is at work sanctifying me so that one day the days of unbelief will be far outnumbered by the days that I do believe. So I write these words more for my own heart than for others to see; but I hope that these words bless the Brothers just the same.”

Stephen Jaques

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