“Intentional” seems to be a buzzword among Christians these days. Phrases like “intentional relationships” appear in discussions about the nature of dating. Intentionality has become a part of how some Christians define what it means to have friendships or our relation to God. Intentional seems to be this buzzword that seems to be this positive thing that all Christians should be striving for. I reject this. The true Christian life is and must finally be the unintentional life because a true life is unintentional.
Intentionality is not the goal of Christianity, transformation is. What is it, exactly, that we want when we say that we should be intentional? This word usually means that one should be resolved to do something, that our actions should stem from our mental decisions to effect an action in this world rather than mere impulse. However, I do not believe that this representative of the Christian life. Paul writes “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I firmly believe that if we were truly transformed, life would be unintentional. At the centre of what it means to be Christian is this idea of transformation, this idea that we are being changed from one degree of glory to another in this process by which we are made more and more like Christ every day. Where we once were sinners, we should be, at the end of all this, visibly more like Christ.
The reason I say that the end of Christianity is an unintentional life can be found in the following example: If a person stubs their toe and screams profanities, that person’s inner character has been revealed. We read in the Bible at once that no person can tame the tongue (James 3.8) and that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. In this example, the person’s response was purely unintentional. Regardless of whether or not that person tries not to use profanity day to day, if in that one instance he does, the inner character of the person is shown. This is the most unhidden self, and the unhidden self is what intentionality doesn’t result in a true Christian life. Intentionality can be entirely successful, we can put our mind to the act of discipline, but it might never result in a true change. The moment we cease to be “intentional” we fall back into our old ways. This is not the Christian life. This is not the transformed life.
Intentionality has a role in the Christian life. We need to desire what is good, and in one large sense we need to be intentional because intentionality brings about change, Paul even says to discipline our body. However, intentionality is not the end goal, unintentionality is. If we undergo transformation, our response to events changes. Intentionality is the tool by which we can achieve, with God’s help (and God’s help is key) a right unintentionality in life. We move from desires that are of this earth, to those that only God cares about. We move from one sort of unintentionality, to another. A transformed life is an unintentional life, one where it is unthinkable to not be godly. We no longer have to think about “is this godly,” “should I be doing this.” No, much rather our response becomes “I only want to do that which is right, and all other things disgust me.” This isn’t intentionality, it is the response of a sanctified person, the godly thoughts of a person whose only focus is Christ. This is our goal, not intentionality, but an unintentionality that results from a single minded devotion to the person of Christ.
Intentionality can be a tool; it can help us become unintentional, but in no way do I think that intentionality is the end of all things in Christianity. We cannot be intentional in one relationship but not another. We cannot be intentional in one area but not another. This secularizes our life and makes certain friendships and actions more worthy of God than another. Christ however demands our all, he demands that we partake of his suffering and cross daily, he demands that we die so that he might live in us as the basis of our unintentional life. All areas are worthy of the cross, all areas must equally be changed. Let us respond to Christ and let our response be truly unintentional, and if it is not, let us pray that the Spirit might move in us so that our only thoughts might be those of Christ himself. Christ is our centre, there is no other and discipleship our only and natural response.