Driscoll-Wannabes, Please Stop Distracting 20 Year Olds from Actual Sin

It is not a sin to live with your parents when you are 20. Seriously, 20 year olds – or 25, 30, 35 year olds – you can relax.

And moving out won’t guarantee that you will get married and be happy.

Everybody who wants to start Calvinizing about how it’s probably a sin needs to stop. Why? Because 20 year olds are much better at self-condemnation than you think. No matter what you say, there is a voice in their own head screaming something louder and more damaging. Your words – your SERMON – only confirm suspicions of their own worthlessness.

So I’m begging you: Please stop.

“But, okay, maybe it isn’t a sin to live with your parents as an adult, but it is still unwise, right? We still want to preach against it?” You don’t know. You really don’t know that at all. There are as many circumstances for a son or daughter who is wise to move back in with their parents as there are unwise reasons. “Well, okay, but I just know a lot who are making bad decisions.” Okay. Well. I don’t mean to burst your discernment bubble, but of course you think they are making bad decisions. If they come to you because they are tired of being single, you might have to wade through their suffering with them. A quick-fix “move out of your parents’ house then you won’t have to deal with the anxieties of singleness” is way easier than actually convincing someone the gospel is true in the midst of suffering.

A friend of mine from high school was addicted to heroin. Her and I both happened to be living in a city very far from our tiny hometown, so I FB’d her and we met up to eat. I was only vaguely aware of her post-high school drug struggles. I asked what she was doing in Los Angeles. She told me that when she was in her first year of college, she started using heroin. She told me that once when she ran out of heroin, she even tried meth. I was completely shocked. She was in LA for rehab. After LA she was planning to move back with her parents for a while.

So take the church element entirely out of it. Without a pastor telling her anything, don’t you think she is already aware how lame it is that she is going to live with her parents? It signifies to her that she has already failed. Already! She is only in her early 20s and has had to tap out and admit life is too hard. She has already had her mid-life crisis. She has realized that she can’t do life on her own, that she desperately, hopelessly needs to depend on something other than herself.

Do you see how perfect this is? Do you see how this sets the table for the gospel?

If she came to Jesus and said, “Christ, I need you, I have nothing to my name. I can’t save myself! Help!” He would say, “Daughter, your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

If she came to a Driscoll-Wannabe Churchplanter’s church to hear his sermon, and she had that dialogue going in her head (“Pastor, I need something, I have nothing to my name. I can’t save myself! Help!”), and the pastor spoke about how 20 somethings should just stop ditzing around, settle down, have a family, and aspire to be a perfect mom, she would be left wallowing in self-condemnation. Or she would buck up, get her shit together, and discount the  life-giving insights that her addiction revealed to her, namely, her inability to save herself.

The biggest sin problem in a 20 something’s life is not that they are sinning. The biggest sin problem is that they think if they follow their grizzly-voiced pastor’s sermonic prescriptions they will suddenly stop sinning. And then and only then will they feel save-able. They will, go slow with me here, make themselves save-able. They will save themselves. There you are, Works-Righteousness, you elusive bastard!

Helping people repent is not about exhorting them to change their lives. It’s about heating up the condemnation so hot that the whole enterprise burns itself out and they have to go to Jesus in rags and desperation.

Jesus loves you. Unconditionally. In your mom’s house. Or wherever. Get that truth in your bones then we can talk about how to tie down a spouse.

[Side note: I don’t really care about ostracizing Driscoll. Clearly the guy is going through some stuff right now. I know Ray Ortlund, a guy I have mad respect for, stood in his defense during the latest scandal and Driscoll’s repentance. I still don’t buy it, personally. Not that my value judgment matters at all, but I say that because as of this writing, Driscoll is still the figurehead for a type of revived Baptist teaching – I grew up Baptist, mind you – that scapegoats guys in their twenties to make everyone else feel holy. And then they say shit like, “If we fix the 20 year old guys, we can fix the whole culture.” Well, only Jesus can fix people, so please back off. The problem is much deeper than being a disorganized 20 something. And, truthfully, you don’t know what it is like to be 20, told that if you just go to college you will get a job, then getting out and not having any jobs available. That wasn’t your generation. So of course, pastors are looking at 20 somethings saying, “Come on! Buck up! Get a job! We did!” Well, the economy hadn’t tanked for you guys. Anyway, in conclusion, the biggest “sin-issue” of a 20 year old is not that they don’t have a job. It’s not even that they are lazy. Their biggest sin-issue is that they think if they did have a job, God would love them more. They believe they will be more save-able if only their life was more glorious – as defined by their pastor. Again, please stop. Jesus loves them. No strings attached. It’s scandalous to say for fear they never improve, but if you don’t say it they never will.]

One Comment

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  1. Jacob,
    I really like your blog and everything it stands for. In fact I was stoked to find a blog that is explicitly gospel centered. If you haven’t heard him already, you need to get over to paramount church.com and listen to John Fonville. He is a good friend of Jim McNeely, and he actually discipled me for a while when I went to his church in Jacksonville, FL. I think his sermons would encourage you and anyone else you know who has had a “gospel-awakening” to the importance of the gospel as the power of sanctification for the Christian and not just a way “in the door.”

    Regarding your post,

    You said…
    “Anyway, in conclusion, the biggest “sin-issue” of a 20 year old is not that they don’t have a job. It’s not even that they are lazy. Their biggest sin-issue is that they think if they did have a job, God would love them more. They believe they will be more save-able if only their life was more glorious – as defined by their pastor.”

    That is right on.

    I sympathize with your frustration with pastors who are provoking confusion in todays youth concerning what it means to be a Christian. I too feel the same way because I was extremely confused with what it meant to divide law and gospel faithfully, and many pastors drove me to sin more and more by pointing me inward instead of answering the Law of scripture with Jesus. Big difference between “do this and live” and “you live, now do this.”

    True “Gospel-centered” thinkers are hard to come by. I added you on FB. Looking forward to future posts 🙂

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