In today’s culture, especially among teens, people often have the following attitude.
How much can I get away with before I get caught?
How disrespectful can I get before I get called out?
How far can I go before I wreck my life?
We won’t talk about how destructive this attitude is in general, as that’s a conversation for another day. What I want to talk about now is the problem that surfaces when we apply this attitude to our Christian life.
It’s a principal called maximal righteousness vs. minimal righteousness.
(I’m not entirely sure where I heard this terminology for the first time. I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it up.)
The question for us, as Christians, should not be “How far can I go before it counts as sin?” This is only striving for minimal righteousness.
Minimal righteousness is the kind of life that only seeks to know where the absolute limits are, to live on the edge between God’s standards and the world’s culture. In minimal righteousness, the only thing that matters is where the loopholes and the absolute boundary line are. And that is not how God calls us to live.
What is the alternative? Living a life of maximal righteousness. In maximal righteousness, the question is “How much can I live to glorify God?” To live a life of maximal righteousness is to live a life that seeks to glorify God in every way, to stay as far away from the edge as possible, to be completely separate from the world’s culture.
This applies to everything we do. I’ve heard it most applied to dating and purity (not “how far can we go?” but rather “how pure can we stay?”). It can apply to lots of other things as well: how you treat your family, friends, teachers, etc., how diligent you are at your schoolwork…
This is the righteousness that God calls us to.
It’s important to remember, though, that this does not mean striving for perfection on our own. What I’m talking about is the mindset we have as we go about our lives, not actually living our lives perfectly in maximal righteousness all the time.
Remember that we do not have to do this on our own: not cultivate the mindset, not live a perfect life, none of it. God works in us; without the Holy Spirit, we would be lost. Pray that God would help you to live in maximal righteousness, that he would change your heart and attitude.
Pray that He would enable you to reject the cultural rebellion of pushing boundaries and instead choose to go beyond what is required in order to do what is fully right.