“Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19). Whatever happened to dating? I first noticed a decline in dating when our daughter, Jamie, was in high school. She told me she was just going out with friends. Going out with friends turned into “hanging out” with friends. Evidently dating was “out” and hanging out was “in.” If I understood the cultural vernacular, hanging out meant less of a commitment. The way Jamie and her friends used the word I got the idea that “dating” was one step short of being engaged. Hanging out was safe — hanging out involved no promise and no obligation.
The Institute of American Values had a sixteen-member team study this phenomenon. This team was called the “Courtship Research Team” and was led by Norval Glenn, professor of sociology at the University of Texas, and Elizabeth Marquardt. They published a report, “Hooking Up, Hanging Out and Hoping for Mr. Right.” “Hooking up” is a term that fits the idea of hanging out. Hooking up allows some kind of “sexual interaction without commitment or even affection.” Hanging out and hooking up are ways of avoiding the profound depth and serious responsibility of God-ordained relationships while sampling something of their pleasures. It is what I call the “casualization” of love, friendship, and marriage.
The evangelical church in our culture has adopted the same philosophy in calling people to “hang out” with Jesus. I can hang out and hook up with Him and avoid the serious responsibility of commitment. That is why we have no concept of suffering for Christ as we go to our comfortable churches on Sunday morning. The evangelical church in our culture does not understand suffering for Christ because it does not understand commitment to Him. Peter spoke of the afflictions endured by Christians, and he linked suffering directly to commitment. “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful creator” (1 Peter 4:19). The word entrust is the Greek word meaning “to deposit” or “to commit.” The sufferer must be committed. Near the end of his letter Peter simply said, “Stand firm in it” as he spoke to the faithful. He was saying, “Be committed to Him.” Peter understood that a casual relationship with Jesus would never lead one to face the lions in the arenas of Rome.
If the church does not transform the culture around her, she will become conformed to that culture. Obviously, the Christian church in our society is not transforming the culture, so she is conforming to our societal mores. The church is trying to be like the world. Thus, we have seen the “casualization” of Christianity happen right before our eyes. Just as people want to hang out with each other, they want to hang out with Jesus. In fact, the evangelical church is doing everything possible to get people to hang out with Jesus. “Come, enjoy something of the pleasures of Jesus without promise, obligation, affection, or commitment.” A report on the current evangelical church would be quite accurate with the title, “Hooking Up, Hanging Out and Hoping for Spiritual Salvation.”
All this would seem to be very helpful to the growth of the church if it weren’t for Jesus Himself. Someone forgot to tell Jesus about the concepts of hanging out and hooking up. Every time I run into Him He is still demanding extreme commitment. He is so out of touch with the discovery of the advantages of casual relationships. “If you would come after me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Self denial as a requirement for relationship is too costly. Giving up our wills, our autonomy, is not our idea of spiritual freedom. And the cross is a place where people die! Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood this Jesus of the “non-casual” relationship. He said, “When Jesus calls a man, He bids him come and die.”
Somewhere along the way, while Jamie was hanging out she met this guy named Robert. He was a lot like Jesus; he wasn’t much on hanging out and casual relationships, especially where Jamie was concerned. They didn’t simply go home together one evening or stay with each other for several months. On a set day, they invited family and friends to the church and swore themselves to each other before God and in His name. Jamie promised to die to self and live for Robert. Robert promised to die to self and live for Jamie.
Jesus said that our marriages with each other were replicas of our marriage to Him. Jesus does not invite us to come and hang out with Him. He does not call us to a casual relationship. He calls us to die to self. He calls us to profound commitment. People just don’t go to crucifixions and hang out. You can’t go to Calvary to hang out casually — to watch Him die.
I am convinced that too many of us are just spiritually hanging out. We have never formally and deliberately kneeled at the cross and confessed our sin. We have not looked to Him crying for mercy, “Just as I am without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me.” We have not said, “I give up all claim to my life. I am Yours body and soul, will and intellect.” Would you do that right now? Why not? Yes, it is true, commitment to Him may well bring suffering to your life. However, the rumor is that there is no profound fulfillment and deep pleasure in shallow, casual relationships.