Making It Personal

picture courtesy of Google ImagesSometimes I get so very frustrated with the way Christianity is portrayed to the world. More often than not, I see a Christianity that isn’t anywhere close to the one Jesus modelled and taught us to live out. And this hurts the overall message.

Hypocrisy, legalism, shame, and condemnation are rampant. But is this how Jesus behaved? Did He worship in His Father’s house with His hands raised and eyes closed, and then go out to lunch with the Disciples and laugh about the Pharisees behind their backs? Did He condemn the sinners He met, like the woman at the well who was on her 5th man, or the tax collectors, or the woman who’d been caught in adultery? Did Jesus stand on the street-corners holding a sign that read, “Repent, or you’re all going to hell”?

The answer to all of the above is: NO.

Jesus was (and still is) gentle, kind, loving, patient. He convicts us of sin, but He never condemns us. He does say that the consequences of sin is death (eternal punishment), but also that all who believe in Him can be saved! He doesn’t preach this message with a sense of shame or condemnation, but with a soft plea spoken out of the depths of His love for all of us… not JUST Christians, but every single person on the planet.

I know so many people who have walked away from, or just flat-out rejected, Christianity, because they think…

• “If that’s what Christianity is all about, I want no part of it.”
• “If being a Christian means I have to be like so-and-so, no thanks.”
• “Being a Christian will mean I can’t have fun any more — so, forget it.”

But, they have seen this “false” pseudo-Christianity, not the real thing. They have no idea how good it can really be. It’s not all about giving up the good times, or walking around all uptight, or about acting all better-than-thou, or converting everyone you see.

It’s about a friendship with Jesus… a man who was so compelling that people couldn’t help but be drawn to Him… the only One who will never, ever hurt or betray you… the only “friend” who can offer the deepest satisfaction and sense of peace.

I loved this article, written by Abby Johnson. She’s talking about the latest news regarding abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell, but she gives a very good picture of the difference between the false, “pious” Christianity, and the REAL, grace-full Christianity that I’m talking about.

A blog post from Abby’s blog {read the full post here} had this little paragraph tucked inside it, and it, too, says what I’m trying to say — shows the difference:

{…“Well, one of our [church] members took her to the Target Café to share the Gospel with her.” So, no material assistance was offered for her or her baby? No resources offered for where she could receive assistance? No phone calls made to maternity homes or pro-life groups in the area? “No,” the woman responded. “Just the meeting at Target to talk about the Lord.”

Well, isn’t that fantastic. I’m sure the Gospel will find her a hospital to deliver her baby in. I’m sure the Gospel will help her with food to nourish her body during the last few weeks of her pregnancy. I’m sure the Gospel will help keep her safe from harm as she sleeps outside night after night. Their answer made me disgusted. How can we expect to nourish someone spiritually when their physical needs aren’t met? How can we expect someone to be receptive to the Gospel when they go physically hungry during the day? How can we expect someone to believe in the mighty power of Christ when they don’t know if they will be forced to deliver their baby in an alley somewhere? This is Christianity? This is how we treat those in need of help? Certainly not. That is not what faith is about. James clearly states that “faith without works is dead.” What is faith if we are not willing to step out of our comfort zone and get our hands dirty in service to Christ? We are called to be the “hands and feet of Christ,” right? That means service to those who need him…not just words…actions.}

Precisely. The REAL Christianity is one of compassion and love. It is actions and service. It is modeling Jesus’ actions and love to a hurting world around us. NOT condemnation. NOT shame. NOT ignoring needs because it makes you uncomfortable.

Ugh.

………………………………………………………………………..

For further reading, check out Acts 2. This is the story of the first community of Christian believers.

Stronger Than It Seems

Today, in my Inbox, I received a post from Sarah Markley’s blog, titled, “When Life & God Split Us“. Reading through it, I was like, “Aha! That is exactly it!

I tried to write a somewhat similar post a while back, but it didn’t come out exactly right. Sarah’s post says it so much better! I liked where she wrote:

And maybe Jesus also sets us free from legalism-speak, and free from extra Praise-The-Lords and If-It’s-In-His-Will’s. Maybe I don’t have to say those things at every breath to still be called Daughter and Sister!

It doesn’t mean that I don’t love God. In fact, for me it means the opposite.

She also writes:

…to show that I can still love Jesus and drink a glass of good wine, that I can still believe well and not use language dripping with Christian-speak...

…and this…

…the Holy Spirit can indwell me even when my faith is a little outside of the box.

Yes, yes, YES! This is just how I feel! Just because my faith looks different from what you imagine it should look like, doesn’t mean that I don’t have a strong faith in God. It doesn’t mean that I am backslidden.

My own faith has always been “a little outside of the box“. I think that’s why I don’t get along well with a lot of other Christians, and why I’ve lost certain friendships — or, as Sarah says, our faith has “split us”. People are always afraid of what’s “different”.

It’s not that I try to be contrary, or different. I just don’t buy into the need to use Christian-speak, or the need to keep my stuff all locked up so that the outside looks “shiny” and “perfect”. I can’t stand people who pretend that their life is totally fine and they don’t have any problems. That isn’t reality. Sure, your outlook on life can be positive! But, you can’t tell me that you don’t have any problems, ’cause I’m not buying it. Not in the least.

Who says we have to pretend we have it all together?

Who says we have to not have any flaws in order to be called “Christian”?

Jesus said, “In this world you will have troubles… but take heart, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)

I hate that our faith splits us. But, if it means that my faith is real and authentic, so be it. I’d much rather live authentically, then pretend to have it all together and find out I wasn’t as close to God as I thought.

Discontented

 For a while now ~ years, probably ~ I’ve had a dislike of “religion”, even though I’ve called myself a “Christian” for most of my life, and I was brought up going to church every Sunday.

But, I really have never liked going to church. And, in all honesty, I don’t like hanging around with other Christians.* Too often they are too preachy, or too judgemental, or too “holier-than-thou”. And I just can’t stand it!

For example, I recently posted to my Facebook wall that I was reading L. J. Smith’s series, “The Vampire Diaries“. And a good –Christian– friend of mine left a comment asking why I’d read “such trash”. I laughed it off and said, “Because I like reading vampire books!” Then, a few days later, I went to Bible study, and another (Christian) friend says, “I’ve been seeing your Facebook posts, lately, about the books you’re reading, and the Christina Aguilera music videos ~ why do you choose to fill your head with such garbage? I just don’t get it.” This woman said all of this with such a disgusted tone of voice, too. 😕

Well, I have a question of my own: Who gave ya’ll the right to approve/disapprove of the media I consume? I mean, if you want to confront a Christian sister in love, and remind her that maybe her choices aren’t the most edifying, there are better ways to go about it. But, manipulation and shame aren’t it.

I’m tired of Christianity’s legalism and falseness. I love my LORD, and feel that He and I have a decent relationship. It’s not what I’d like it to be, certainly, but it’s at least a relationship that’s in process.

I want a strong, visible faith. But, I don’t want to be the type of Christian I’ve seen all of my life. I don’t want to be pious. I don’t want to follow a set of rules, or have a mental checklist that tells me whether/not I’m being a “good Christian” and walking closely with God (because I’m reading my Bible, going to church, and praying regularly, etc). I don’t want people to run for the hills when they see me coming — or, at the very least, roll their eyes — for fear that I’m goign to give them an earful about my faith.

I guess I kind of just like the faith that I already have. It’s a quiet faith, where I will share with others if God prompts me to, or if I feel the circumstances call for it; where I don’t go to church on Sundays, but have made attendance at my weekly Bible study a priority (it’s my “church”); where –every now & then– people will hear me talk about my faith and realize that maybe I have a closer relationship with God than they thought (because they were too busy assuming –based on my media choices, and my lack of church attendance– that I have a “weak” faith).

I want to live The Way of Jesus (as seen in the New Testament). I want to have a deep, abiding love relationship with my LORD that isn’t overbearing, but that definitely teases others into wanting the same for themselves. I want people to say, “There’s something different about her,” and then seek to find out what that is. But, the “difference” I want them to discover is an authentic, living, breathing faith in a loving heavenly Father who calls them (and me) to Himself.

———————————-
* Note: This does not include my blogging friends. I love reading Christian blogs, but that’s probably because I can choose the ones whose “tone” I like. 😉

Thinking @ Random… (Aug.11)

I want the passion for God and His Word (and His people) that Beth Moore has. But, whenever I talk about God/the Bible/Heaven & Hell with that sort of passion — to my own ears I sound fake & hypocritical.

I don’t want to become one of “them” ~ one of the people I grew up around. They were fake, hypocritical, and legalistic, and I don’t want to be seen as any of that.

I guess what I need is to figure out what all I truly believe, and why. Then I can give honest answers for my faith, and when I talk about it, it’ll come out as deep-seated and genuine; as something that I’m truly, deep-down passionate about…

…like Beth Moore, and all of those other Christian authors I tend to admire. 😉