As Bible believing Christians we claim salvation by grace alone, but often times, as soon as we become a Christian, we bring “works” back into the equation and we make lists of all the things we need to start changing and working on to be a “good Christian”.
This is a dangerous place to be and can wreak havoc on not only our own lives, but sets us up to reign down judgment on our fellow believers.
One path leads to heavy guilt and a sense of just never being “enough”, whereas the other road leads to life, to freedom, and to a beautiful discovery of the character of God.
The realization of how God actually intended us to live out the Christ-following life was a long and slow process for me, but I recall one specific instance where my ideas of “strict obedience” really began to crumble. To set the stage, I used to feel endlessly guilty for all the ways that I wasn’t “Christian” enough throughout every single day. Maybe I didn’t say everything sweet enough, maybe I wasn’t thoughtful enough, maybe I didn’t think nice thoughts enough, maybe I didn’t hold open enough doors for elderly people, maybe…maybe…maybe… And on went the list in my head of “not enoughs”.
My guilt weighed in as heavy as my list was long.
A couple of years ago, my husband Chris and I were driving through Burger King and the teller on the other end was rather snippy, rude, and altogether uncaring, but she did manage a “have a good day” (with a sigh) as she handed us our food. Much to my shock and horror, Chris didn’t even respond to her paltry “well-wishing.” Immediately, I pulled away from him emotionally and began a list of “holy judgments” in my head. He must not be very close to God today. How dare he be so inconsiderate! How could he not even say, “Thank You”! How ungodly! I cringe thinking about it, but I know that I was often guilty then and still catch myself thinking of “(un)holy judgments” about my brothers and sisters in Christ.
It’s the age old sinful root of prideful arrogance that says, “I know how to be a better Christian than you.”
When I finally managed to get myself under enough control to voice my “concerns” over his “awful” display of character, I was even more surprised to hear him say that he didn’t see what he had done (or not done) as a sin.
I was speechless.
As we continued our conversation, Chris went on to describe how the Christian walk was more of following the Spirit’s leading and specific convictions rather than a long list of ideas that he (Chris) pulled from the Bible and then worked hard to attain to. He simply read his Bible, listened to the Spirit, and sought to love others the way Jesus loved him. Which looked different on different days with different people and different promptings from the Holy Spirit. Some days it meant buying groceries for someone, some days it meant giving an extra generous tip to a waitress, some days it meant buying coffee for his wife, but every day it meant submitting his own will to the Spirit’s and being willing to go where God’s Spirit led him.
What do you think about mine and Chris’ takes on the Christian life? Have you ever wrestled with how you think Christianity should look and how you need to get there? Even more piercing, have you ever, like me, judged someone else because “Christian” didn’t look the same on them as it did on you?
Check back in the next few days as we finish up this three part mini-series on being conformed to Christ and what that might look like.