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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lifestyle choice?

In church on Sunday Roy, our pastor, talked about how Christianity has done damage to the gospel - how people may be intrigued by Jesus but put off by Christians. Whether it's the way they live and they see hypocrisy, a lack of integrity...whatever the reasons, it happens and it's sad. I'd spoken in church about Relay and at the end Roy came up to me and said "This year, make sure you focus on Jesus, and not Christianity. At 61, I'm becoming more and more intrigued by Jesus, and more and more disillusioned with aspects of Christianity."

Good advice - it's always gotta be about Jesus. So why the problem? Why are non-Christians so put off by 'Christianity'? I'm kinda thinking out loud here but maybe one reason is the lack of honesty in the church. The topic of honesty has been batted around on blogs a little recently. It needs to be evident in the church. We need to admit our failings and admit that we are sinful even as Christians (shock horror). So many non-Christians I talk to say "Oh, Christians think they're so perfect." This really gets to me because the point is, isn't it, that we recognise we're not perfect. But we shouldn't be giving off the impression that we are. We need to own up to our sinfulness and not try and create some super impression in front of our non-Christian - or even Christian - friends. Let's not make light of our mistakes or boast about them in any way - sin is sin and it dishonours God - but let's ackowledge that we stuff up. And let's acknowledge why that's ok if we're in Christ.

I guess part of why we don't boils down to the fact that we don't want to admit to other Christians that we get things wrong. Part of that is pride. A big part. And also we perceive every other Christian as being totally sorted with God and never struggling in their faith, never doubting, never doing anything as bad as the stuff we've done (as if there are 'levels' of sin). It's a pressure we put on ourselves usually, and we do the same with non-Christians. Thinking that if they see our sin, they won't wanna know Jesus. But the thing is, they will see us sin. But when they do, we need to tell them the gospel. God is bigger than our sin.

And I guess another reason people dismiss Christianity is that they think "It's just not for me". How many times have you heard that expression? It's because they see Christianity merely as a lifestyle choice. They don't see it as having any meaning, it's just a way you choose to live the same as someone chooses to do x or y. The same as, say, someone who chooses to be vegetarian, or to eat certain foods because they think that's healthier, or to do this or that. They think, as long as you're sincere, as long as it works for you, it doesn't matter.

In the post today arrived two shiny new books for me from IVP (they were reduced and I couldn't help it. Birthday money well spent though methinks). Anyway, one of them is called "But don't all religions lead to God?" by Michael Green. In the first chapter he addresses the issue of sincerity and rightly points out that the "it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you're sincere" argument is total rubbish. Hitler, after all, was sincere.

Being a Christian isn't about sincerity in that sense. It's about truth.
Christianity isn't just some other lifestyle choice. It's this attitude that not only blinds people to the truth of the gospel and turns them off Christianity when other lifestyle choices look so more attractive, but it's also unfortunately the attitude that can mean poeple 'backslide' once they've made a commitment. I know that's the case with my youngest brother. Having made a commitment on camp a few years ago he now has turned his back on Christianity, and God. He fails to see that the fundamental issue at first isn't whether he lives like a Christian but whether he believes that Jesus is the Son of God. His words to me were "I've tried living as a Christian, and it's just not me." Those words smack of "Look, I've tried this lifestyle ok but it's just not for me, I'm gonna try something else". The underlying message behind his words is that he wasn't focusing on Jesus or the truth of the gospel or the strength of God to get him through teenage troubles and life's difficulties, but he was trying to live in the right way, as he thought he should live, as he perceives a Christian should. And that is the attitude that leads to legalism - trying to base your life, your merits, on what you do. And of course, that fails, because you will never live up to the pressure you put on yourself. And we will never live up to the standard we need to without Jesus.

Christianity isn't just some other lifestyle choice. The question I'm asking myself is, do I make it look like that? Do my family and friends think I'm a Christian just because that's what I do; because I have this social group I meet with every Sunday and during the week; because CU is just another club; because I get to organise events and things and it gives me stuff to do and get involved in; because by going to church I'm somehow making myself right with God; because I've found my niche?

Or do they know that I'm a Christian because I've had my eyes opened to the truth of the gospel - that there is nothing I can do that will get me right with God, that Jesus has done it all? Do they know that church/CU/house group/prayer meetings aren't just social activities but time spent with family, learning more about how great God is and praising Him? Do they know that these things excite me not just because I'm spending time with friends but because God excites me? Do they know that whatever I organise or don't; whatever I'm involved in in the church or not, that is not my value; my value comes from knowing I'm a child of God?

Do they know that yes, I've found my niche, in the arms of my loving Heavenly Father; do they know that it's their niche too?

They'll only know that if I live it, and if I tell them. If I demonstrate through actions and words that this isn't just another way to live; it's the way to live. I need to speak more. Because when someone looks at your life, especially nowadays with all the different 'lifestyles' being batted around in the press as good for you in different ways, it's easy for them tothink that being a Christian is just another fad, just another lifestyle, just another social thing.

It's not. Praise God for that, and Oh Lord, give me the strength and courage to live as though I'm living for Jesus, not as though I'm following the rules of a lifestyle; and to tell people the gospel, for Your glory.


Blogger FloydTheBarber said...

Good stuff Ceryn.

I was sharing the Gospel with a mate on saturday, and tried to tell him about why i am separated from God apart from Christ and his response was 'but thats crazy ed, you're a really good guy' (he'd had a few)...which as least made a change from 'Christians all think they're so much better than everyone else'.

I guess thats comes from our assurance that we are saved whereas our NC mates aren' we need to tell them WHY we're sure as much and as soon as possible...

Thanks for making me think.

4:37 PM  

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