You Do You.
“Public service announcement: “You do you” is not actually a Christian idea. “You do you” is how fallenness happened. It is too often followed by “hold my beer.” The last thing any of us needs is for me do me when Jesus has so blatantly and wisely asked me to deny me and do him.”’ As see on Twitter from @CarolynCMoore, Rev. Carolyn Moore of Mosaic UMC and Wesleyan Covenant Association
This phrase, “you do you”, on the surface and left in the realm of friendly interpersonal human relationships alone seems harmless and for those with no underhanded, hidden agenda, I think it is pretty straight forward. If heard through unsuspicious ears that are not looking for manipulation, offense or a reason to disagree, it is pretty benign. After all, if I am being transparent, real, and authentic who else would I “do” but myself?
Its Urban Dictionary definition offers this perspective:
1. the act of doing what one believes is the right decision, being oneself
2. (alternately)…a response when somebody constantly asks for suggestions, but doesn’t actually need or listen to them
Urban Dictionary online is usually where I turn first when I encounter cultural linguistic confusion. Fads, trends, and lingo change so quickly I know very well I am close to becoming a fossil when attempting to read or listen to those adept in communicating in hip contemporary culture. It’s a fact that my ancient, 40+ years old or more, edition of the Oxford Dictionary is not going to provide much enlightenment in such cases.
Either of these Urban Dictionary definitions seem pretty harmless and encourage one to make her own best judgment, which is how I was inclined to first interpret the phrase when I heard it, with a sense of “Okay. Who else would I do?” However, when one adds context, degree of disagreement between the parties when the phrase is thrown out, tone of voice, and generational differences in understanding, one could be very wrong in seeing it as straightforwardly as Urban Dictionary suggests.
The same phrase, as I have experienced it, appears to have been high jacked and has become a pejorative slap at someone with whom the writer/speaker disagrees and the tone and context can be cast in such a way as to make clear that there is no common ground for further conversation. That pejorative spin appears to have been further wound tightly through a New York Times article that associates this phrase with an American millennial “culture of narcissism.” https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/magazine/how-you-do-you-perfectly-captures-our-narcissistic-culture.html
When I was first confronted with this phrase, on the receiving end, it was directed in a tone of apparent exasperation and dismissal, with the inference that I was being written off as totally without the ability to engage in meaningful conversation because, “me doing me” clearly did not appear to be acceptable to the other party, as it meant there would be no “us doing us” if I was doing me. My intellect based on my choices/preferences appeared to have been deemed inferior, ignorant, and furthermore, malicious, accompanied by accusations of racism, “BS”, hypocrisy, religiosity, un-Christian, and more. It was clearly communicated through the context in which it was thrown, like a final decision, a lethal thrust, a fire-y blast, lacking any respect, that the expectation of the other party was that I was incapable of understanding her position and that I had such a hardened entrenchment in my position that no further reasoning was possible and that my position was unacceptable. Period.
After I heard it from the same source a couple of times, it was clear to me that this was not a position of openness to acceptance of others as they are and accepting that they were doing what they believe is right. Nor was it permission for one to simply be true to who she was, as Urban Dictionary suggested. Nor was it an acknowledgement that two parties could disagree and still live in peace. Rather, it seemed to be reflecting a view of me as having a position of unremitting, uncompromising, incomprehensible hardened mindlessness that could have no resolution except separation or continued assault against what I value and believe.
Okay. If separation is the only choice provided and there are no areas for continued common ground, I will accept separation, as I have battled over disputed territory long enough. In as much as it is up to me, I will be at peace. If it means separating for those who will not allow me to be at peace with what I believe is right, I will choose distance. I know what I believe is right for me. I can accept that you believe the same about what is in your heart. But if the only way for us to be present with one another is by eggshell tippy-toeing or to be engaged in constant battle, then it is time to call a truce and walk away, accepting that there can be no common ground that includes continued fellowship or further conversation under the current conditions, as that ship has sailed.
There can still be love for the other party and a desire for the God’s best. The choice is to leave the outcome of what that looks like entirely up to God. I make no claims to any right to make your decisions for you. Similarly, I request that you respect my right to make my decisions for me.
Herein lies the problem. If we are going to continue to call ourselves “family” or “friends”, there is the Christian expectation that we can love well enough to forgive and have fellowship restored. When the differences go to the heart of the identity of the individuals involved and each claims identity in Christ, there is a problem. Both cannot be “right” if the identities appear to be in conflict with one another and still be “in Christ.” Is being “right” even the point? What does being “in Christ” mean when there are such differences? Those who have no interest in peace or common ground will use such questions as an opportunity to interject further conflict.
Can either one can be said to be “right” when it results in division and impugns the identity of the other and brings shame on the name and cause of Christ.
When I have been criticized for being “un-Christlike” or “un-Christian” because I failed to conform to someone else’s view of what being “in Christ” was supposed to look like, I have had to resort to a tough response that diminishes fellowship, while continuing to hope for reconciliation and peace. Instead of apologizing to them for disappointing them by not meeting their expectation of what Christ-in-me ought to look like, I have taken this line of reasoning:
“Okay. Now I see the problem. You are expecting me to look like the image of Christ you hold close to your own heart. Understand this. I am not Christ. I do not pretend to be Christ. I will not be the Christ that you demand I be for the sake of pleasing you. For me that would be being unfaithful to Christ, myself and what Christ has called me to be. I am me. I am walking my journey with Christ as faithfully as I know how. If that does not suit you, okay. Let’s part ways here. Christ can be omnipresent in different places at once and omnipotent to overcome whatever obstacles are in the way wherever He finds them and however He chooses to deal with them. He is also omniscient and knows how this all ends. I am none of those things. I cannot hold two opposing positions at once. I cannot pretend agreement when it is not there. Our journeys will either cross again, if we both continue to be led by Christ, or they won’t. I trust God has a reason for the divergence of our paths and will use each of us how He chooses and we’ll either cross paths again in this life or we won’t. But I will trust God in your life and wish you well. It does not affect my journey.”
Sometimes the best choice is to separate and take up separation habitations or habits. Like Abraham and Lot. Like Sarah and Hagar. Like Jacob and Esau. Like Paul and Mark. Such separations may not have been part of God’s original intentional will at Creation, but then what in this broken world as it is today is? When there are unsolvable conflicts, irreconcilable differences, separation makes more sense than murder or continued murmuring against one another which in the Spirit of Law as taught by Jesus, amounts to the same thing.
As Christ said, divorce was not God’s choice, but it was allowed by Moses because of the hardness of people’s hearts. It is not necessary to define whose heart is hardened or why. It simply is what it is and God knows what the future of such behavior by both parties holds. He knows what choices we will make. And He allows us to go into it with our own choices anyway. Thankfully, however, when we come to our senses, if it has been prodigal journeying, His redemptive will allows us to retrace our steps back to Him. If the hardness of hearts has been because of God’s decision to guide us into a direction we would not have chosen otherwise, then God has made the choice to allow the hardness of hearts, as He did with Pharoah, King Saul, Jacob, and others. If God has allowed it to stand, it is for the purpose of taking us to safer and more productive places where His redemptive will can work ALL THINGS for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. For our omnipotent, redeeming God with whom ALL THINGS are possible, regardless of the cause, there are no abortions, no “stop action” directives, no mulligans, no do-overs, no miscarriages of justice, no coincidences that require a re-write of His plan. ALL THINGS can be used to bring about the higher good, a changed heart that turns toward Him.
Christ came for a specific purpose ordained before the Earth was created. He was obedient to it in spite of the attempts of others to dissuade Him. Many were heartbroken and frightened by what they saw as the outcome on Calvary. But God had a redemptive plan they could not even begin to grasp until it was fully revealed. God still has a plan, even when we are heartbroken and frightened by what we see as the Kingdom of God coming apart. God’s redemptive plan is perfect and nothing and no one will stand in its way, hardened hearts or not. God will change hearts when and how He chooses. He will make a Way when there seems to be no Way. I trust in Him fully to do that in the lives of others as well as in my own life, whether we agree on what He is doing or why.
According to what I know of Christ, His purpose in Incarnation included these actions:
-To provide a pattern for holy and abundant living to mankind- 1 Peter 2:21, Matt.1:29, John 10:10
-To seek the lost, bear our sins and save us- Matt.18:11, Luke 19:10,
1 Peter 2:24, 1 Timothy 1:15
-To destroy the works of the devil- 1 John 3:8
-To be our faithful high priest- Hebrews 2:17
-To bring “fire” – Holy Spirit and sanctification- Luke 12:49, Matt. 3:11-12
-To reveal the Kingdom and the Father- Luke 4:43, Matt. 11:27, John 14:9
-To do the will of God, fulfill law and prophecy, and witness to the truth- Hebrews 10:9, Matt. 5:17, Romans 15:8, John 18:37
-To serve and give his life as a ransom- Mark 10:45, Matt. 20:28, Heb.9:26
-To bring judgment against evil- John 9:39, Luke 12:14, John 3:17,
John 8:15, John 12:31, Matt. 10:34:36
Other than striving to know Jesus well and living into the model His life established, doing the things He told us to do, I cannot do the other things Jesus Christ did. I cannot “be Him.” In my humanness I can submit myself to his Holy Spirit and seek to be made into whatever He desires and has purposed for me.
As I understand the purpose of us, as followers of Jesus Christ, these are the actions we are to take:
-To reflect the image of God and rule over creation- Genesis 1:26, 28, Rev.4:11, Colossians 1:16, Gen. 1:31- God called that “good”
-To enjoy relationship with God- to know, love, worship, serve, and fellowship with him- John 15:14-15, Deut. 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark12:30, Luke 10:27 (love him with heart “love”, soul “worship”, mind “know”, and strength “serve”)- Fulfill the Great Commandment.
-To reveal the “new person” through living “in Christ” and be his bride as the church- Ephesians 1:22-23, 2:15-16, 4:24, 5:32, 6:10-20, Col. 2;10 (Not BE CHRIST. BE HIS BRIDE, HIS HELPMATE. HIS BELOVED.)
-To live as individuals and families under authority of Christ- Ephesians 5:22-23
-To produce godly offspring- through relationships in families and through evangelism to all the people of the world- Deut. 11:19 “Teach your children”, “Go and make disciples of all nations” Matthew 28:18-20 – Engage in The Great Commission. (Little “Christs”, not Little Gods. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CHRIST?)
-To promote peace with God, self, and others & bring reconciling peace to the world through Christ- Matthew 5:23-24 “… go and be reconciled to your brother”, John 16:33 “…so that in me you may have peace.”, Rom. 14:19 “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Neither of these lists are intended to be comprehensive. You may observe other things in Scripture or understand these differently. You may tease out more reasons for The Christ, The Creator and Redeemer’s unique and solitary role in Divine Incarnation versus that of the creature, like me. You may also observe other things in Scripture that you believe all followers are called to do and be.
However, in addition to these things that I believe are for all followers of Jesus Christ, each of us has a specific and custom-tailored purpose, too. It lies in the uniqueness of how each of us has been created by God and what He has designed based on that uniqueness- of time, place, family, culture, knowledge, experiences, personality, passion, gifts, etc.
I can’t do you. You can’t do me. Neither of us can do Jesus Christ in the same way that Jesus Himself does Jesus. But if each of us is earnestly seeking to follow Jesus as Jesus has shown us to do, then He will sort it all out. He will either change hearts, change circumstances, or change how He intends to use us. None of us is indispensable to God’s plan. If any one of us chooses our own way over His, He will work around us, perhaps even sideline us permanently. And we’ll eventually come into conformance with His will down the road, or our journey will end with us having failed to complete the purpose for which we were created or we will end up at the destination other than what God had desired. God knows all of this, but as just because the Timeless and Eternal knows what is in my future, does not mean that He has predestined my life to be that way. That is the cost and grief of God having giving us freewill. We can say “no.” But so, too, can God. He can say, “No, I will never quit loving you and reaching out to you. You may reject me but you will never be able to say I was not there. I have made it abundantly clear in many ways.” His grace is resistable. Even the choice to resist God’s grace will be respected.
A former pastor of mine was fond of saying, “The good news is God will give you what you want. The bad news is God will give you what you want.” The underlying caution to the hearer is this: Be careful that you want what God wants, that your desires are being molded to conform to His. Otherwise, you may find yourself out of God’s will altogether and get something other than what you expect.
With grace and compassion, seeking to edify and mutually value one another, can we trust God enough with one another to let God’s redemptive will play out however God has chosen? And can we simply choose to let one another live in peace? Or must we browbeat and insult and dismiss and demonize one another in order to justify our own version (or “perversion”) of Jesus that is being played out according to each person’s understanding, expectations, preferences, and desires? Jesus is Jesus…. The Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient Almighty Sovereign, Loving God. No one else can “Do Jesus.” It was a desire to indulge the temptation on the part of Eve and Adam to “Do God”, that old pride of life temptation that Satan uses so well, the doubting of God’s Word when confronted by the deception of Satan that started all of this. Not Eve being Eve or Adam being Adam, but Satan being satan that started all of this. We can trust that God has a plan, even when we fail.
I will do me while striving to follow Jesus Christ in the way that I have understood and been called to do and being as faithful as I know how to my own purpose defined by God. I will hope that everyone else who follows Jesus Christ finds the freedom in Christ to do the same. Our paths don’t have to be the same. In fact, how useless would most be in service to the kingdom if they were? I may be at peace and in God’s will doing me while you are doing you, while we are each being led by Jesus Christ who made each of us for a good purpose- to glorify God and delight in the journey with Him.
So, issues of the goodness of God, God’s intent for creation, origin of “original sin”, irresistability of grace, image of God in us, our identity “in Christ”, diversity within the Body of Christ, God’s sovereignty, the divinity of Jesus Christ, what constitutes worship of the Creator versus worship of the created, the authority of God’s Word….. all of these flow from one’s interpretation and practice of the phrase, “You do you.” I prefer my redemptive view that sees the world and all that God created as God sees it, “very good.” Maybe not here and now today, but certainly in the process of becoming fully redeemed.