Friday, May 22, 2015

Bad Christian

I would like every individual who has ever had any kind of relationship -- married, dating, friendship, employer/ employee, neighbor, sibling, citizen, any -- in the room to stand up. IF you've never been angry with your relative, never looked at another man/woman in a way you would not want your spouse to detect, never revealed your friend's secret crush to your husband (who just happens to be "secret crush's" first cousin), never took the bigger piece of cake -- or the less burnt cookie, or the slice of bread without the mold -- for yourself and gave the other to your partner, never shoveled your snow, pushed your leaves or sprayed your grass clippings onto your neighbors side of the yard, never left your shopping cart in the parking space instead of returning it to the cart corral, never lied to your mother, never tossed your gum wrapper, or never secretly wanted to crush your boss under a dozen reams of copy paper, sit down. Is there anyone sitting? Yes? If you've ever told a lie, stand up.

Let's face it, we all have done things we shouldn't, made bad choices, erred despite good intentions -- dress it up how you like it, we've sinned. The issue is, there is this entire group of people who are "not supposed to sin." They are known as "The Christians." The Christians are not supposed to sin because they tell everyone else not to sin. The Christians are not supposed to sin because they tell everyone else to go to church, and to pray, and to worship God (whatever that means). The Christians are not supposed to sin because they are religious. The Christians are not supposed to sin because they are perfect. Is any of this sounding like pure horse manure to you yet? Yeah, me too.

I have been called a "bad Christian" more in the past three months than, I think, my whole life, and the truth is, I hope they're right. If I'm trying to be a Christian and failing miserably at it, that means I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. If I'm not pleasing people whose morals are skewed, who pass their judgment by the standards the world sets, who are trying to live by the status quo, I'm exactly who my King says I should be. If I do not strive to follow a list of "dos and don'ts," if I miss church now and again (and can't stand myself by the time service starts), if I cuss when you've really got me twisted, but above all else I seek to follow Jesus despite my failures, in my failures, because of my failures, then I am not simply a "bad Christian," but a terrible, ghastly, loathsome Christian. I am not "doing what I am supposed to do," but I am leaning on Jesus to make me all He desires I should be.

Here's what my accusers and others fail to realize, the foundation of being a Christian is not my actions, my words, my appearances. The foundation of being a Christian is what God, through His Son Jesus did for me and how I am challenged, led, or called to respond to that. If I believe in Jesus' death on the cross, but I respond with guilt and shame that drives me to depression or self-centeredness, or crushes me to the point in which I do not reach out to others but sit for hours saying penitent prayers or engaging in self-deprecating rituals, am I a good Christian? If I know God is real, I attend church every week, I never steal, and I always leave my neighbors plenty of room to get out of their driveway, but in my heart of hearts I just can't wait to get into my comfy clothes, I cheat on my taxes, and I hate my neighbors and their stupid dog, am I a good Christian? If I made my first communion and have been a member of Such-and-Such Community Church for thirty years, I keep my drinking to a minimum and only utter racist remarks to those who share my same views, am I a good Christian? If I allow people to take advantage of me, if I never have politically incorrect views, if I enable manipulators and drunks and users so I don't have to raise a fuss, am I a good Christian?

Whether it's legalism, piety, hypocrisy, co-dependence, pretension or sycophancy, that is not what I want as my response to the greatest possible sacrifice, the greatest possible act of love. And that's not what God wants either. Jesus' death is not some easy pass to forgiveness despite blatant sin. It's not a starting gun to the life of a law-abiding citizen. It is not a shock collar that registers each and everyone of my ungodly thoughts or deeds, and jolts me into obedience. Jesus' death is so much more. It is a gift. A means of a loving God restoring relationship with the people He loves, the world He created, the very people who screwed it up in the first place -- and I am one. It is a challenge to us all to know Him, to seek Him. A challenge that comes with the promise He will make us more like the selfless Deity that suffered our punishment, bled and died for us. A promise that we will, one day, rise from the grave as He did, and we will join Him in heaven.

So, do I sin? You betcha. Was my sin the cause of a broken relationship with a Holy God? Yep. But Jesus settled that score, and God is working in me. There are days when I fight Him on that; just like our earthly relationships, it wouldn't be a relationship if I wasn't given the freedom to choose. But I know He's stronger; I know He's faithful; I know my response to such a magnanimous gift is a desire above all else to see Him glorified. I know I'm not who I used to be, and by His grace, I won't be tomorrow the person I am today.

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