I don’t want to reach the world for Jesus.
It’s not that I don’t love Jesus because I do, deeply.
And it’s not that I don’t believe in the Bible, because I do.
It’s that I think something happens in the span of time between our first moments of passionate, wholehearted conversion to Christ and the moment when we decide that Jesus needs us. If we aren’t careful, we start to think we have a corner on what Jesus thinks about every little thing in life.
It doesn’t start out like this!
At first, we come to Christ sincerely willing to lay our lives down for Him if He asks us to. It’s the beauty of being a newborn baby Christian. But in this place, we are vulnerable to getting on a path to becoming legalistic. It doesn’t happen overnight. For me it was a slow, 10-15 year boil.
I went from being an eager Christian who just wanted to be close to Jesus, to a religious nut who judged everyone around me, to becoming what I am today. A bit disillusioned with Christianity. A bit annoyed by the narrow-mindedness of much of Christian culture. A bit angry at the way we are so not like Jesus sometimes. And way too outspoken about it for my own good.
To be clear, I love depending on Him to walk through the gray areas instead of depending on rules that make everything black and white. But it has caused me to consider how exactly did I get so far off the “follow Me” path?
How do well-meaning Christians turn into judgmental hypocrites?
Well, in my life it happened because I believed them when they told me that I was going to be somebody for Jesus. It appealed to my pride. And I truly did want to do great things for God from an innocent, yet uninformed position. From there it was just a little hop and skip over to full blown legalistic Christian. In order for me to be somebody for Jesus, I needed to be good at being a Christian. Good at praying, good at small group leading, good at serving, etc. In order to do this, I had to start paying attention to what everyone else was doing so that I could get better at all the doing.
This is the start down the slippery slope to becoming judgmental.
I was not aware at the time that my focus was on being good at being a Christian. I thought I was being wholehearted and “sold-out.” In reality I was accepting a worldview that constantly draws lines to create black and white out of all the gray areas of Christianity. Isn’t that what being religious is, at the core? Trying to shove the gray areas into black and white boxes and then protecting ourselves while chiding everyone else around us for asking questions, doubting, or struggling? After all, “how silly is it to doubt when you just need to have faith. Are you even saved?! Sheesh!”
It’s exhausting to be a legalistic Christian.
There is no rest for the weary, no light yoke to be had. Everything depends on you all the time. Your dependence on God is just lip service because you don’t believe He is there for you unless your obedience to Him is perfect. You are #blessed, but you’re not actually blessed.
It’s absolutely impossible to love like Jesus did when we are comparing ourselves with others and shoving the gray into black and white. And the minute we claim the Bible supports our view on topics like alcohol, dating, parenting, hobbies, what music to listen to, what movies to watch, and a myriad of others which are too controversial to name, we are in great danger of being legalistic Christians. We are emulating the ones Jesus rebuked, not the ones He spent time with.
Resisting the temptation to make everything black and white is an uncomfortable way to live. You have to be willing to make mistakes. You have to be willing to be open with people and risk getting hurt. I believe rules are so attractive because they act as a wall between us and others. A wall of protection and a wall to hide our true selves behind.
As Christians do we really emulate Him in our lives?
Jesus wasn’t really keen on the people who acted like they had their lives all put together and neat. He knows our messes and he was attracted to the people who were honest about their mess.
In fact, those are the ones He came for.
I am new to being an authentic Christian and there is a lot to untangle and sort through.
But when I say I don’t want to change the world for Jesus, I mean it. It’s not what He has asked me to do. He has asked me to be dependent on Him as I navigate the gray stuff and to love people genuinely as I go. We are all different, let’s celebrate those differences! Let’s accept each other’s diverse convictions. Isn’t God the one who made us all uniquely in His image?
And maybe we will be so busy celebrating, I with my glass of wine and you with your glass of milk, that we won’t even notice how people want to hear more about this Jesus guy because it will be so natural.
(Image courtesy of Ben Moore)