What Hinders a Fully Integrated Christian Life

by Alexei Laushkin

In the present-day Western Church there are two dynamics that often hinder and slow a fully integrated Christian life: excessive individualism and the role of economic secularism.

Excessive Individualism

Individualism the sense of self and privacy and identity is not in and of itself a bad thing. There is a scriptural basis such as in Galatians 5:1:

For freedom Christ has set us free

But as the author will go on to say in Galatians 5:13:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Freedom is for service. It is for deference. It is for voluntary submission. It is for taking our place within a community of people. Freedom is for building up. Freedom is for choosing to be self-sacrificial. Freedom is for the uplifting of the body.

In other words freedom is not to be used to try and hold people away from who we are. Freedom isn’t to be used to hold our community and churches at a distance. Freedom isn’t a covering to live a secret double life. Freedom isn’t it’s own good; it isn’t meant to draw attention to itself. It isn’t meant to be used to push people away who annoy us, inconvenience us, or to disparage those whom we don’t naturally get along with.

Freedom isn’t meant for total anonymity. It isn’t meant to be used as a sort of a-la-carte menu for us to pick and choose our level of comfort and vulnerability with those around us. When freedom is used for excessive self-protection it becomes a tomb for loneliness, isolation, and alienation from those around us.

Economic Secularism 

Economic decisions that better the outcome for our families, our futures, and our well being aren’t in and of themselves a bad thing. But something can happen when our economic aspirations become a sort of displacing idol visa via other people.

The typical westerner goes from primary and secondary school to college and university to their first job. This process involves a series of relationships that are easily broken in order to help facilitate the ultimate goal, which is economic security, to get a job and keep it, a good paying or at least fulfilling job at that.

In the process though, an individual can become excessive in their breaking ties with various people, until they develop a habit which essentially downplays the role of others within their lives. You’ll find many people who have no one person who has known them outside their immediate family for multiple years.

In fact, such knowing and presence becomes not very valued, so when it comes the time for them to mature and grow and become stable and present members of a Christian community, you find that their lack of experience in close friendships and commitments fosters a kind of perpetual immaturity on their commitments to community to people, and to those around them.

People become a sort of discarded element in their quest for satisfaction and abstract fulfillment. Such Christians tend to find contentment in ideas and theologies and not the practical day to day relationships offered to them within their community, their jobs, and their day to day routines.

Instead of moving from a child to a mature Christian adult emulating the character of the father, such Christians are stuck in a perpetual adolescence where the idols of excessive individualism to protect themselves and a blind adherence to economic secularism end up isolating and stunting the growth of said Christian.

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Thoughts for a College Student

I think back to life in college and I ask myself what do I wish I had known back then that I know now.  It’s not an easy question, or at least it’s not as easy as it sounds. I came to college a fairly stubborn young man. I didn’t want anything to do with Christian fellowship. I had my life or at least some thoughts mapped out. I would use my time in college to get more involved in politics, to master Russian, and perhaps learn foreign policy. I was set. Sure faith was important, but I lived so close to home, so my church at home would still be my primary community.

What I wish someone had done back then was to sit me down and challenge me. Challenge my mind, my life, my heart, and my young ideas and lay out some thoughts, some check in points for growth, development, and maturity. To be honest I wish there had been more structure and forethought put in to my development as a Christian adult.  I wish that the tools I acquired later had been available sooner and in a manner which would have them easier to digest.

If I were to layout a prescription for the life of the Christian by college year it would look something like this (this is by no means an exhaustive list).

FRESHMAN YEAR

SOPHOMORE YEAR 

JUNIOR YEAR

SENIOR YEAR

These books expose you to living the Christian life, church history, some basic theology, and the tools needed as Eugene Peterson puts it for “a long obedience in the same direction.” Books aren’t the only thing central to the Christian life. Fellowship, spiritual disciplines, a heart for worship, and a passion for the Kingdom don’t come from books alone, but the life of the mind has to be developed and engaged. College is the perfect time for developing a vibrant life of faith. You can develop it later or more gradually as I did, but I think having these tools sooner would have given me more tools for the journey.