Let’s face it: we suck. I’ll clarify. When I refer to “we,” I am generalizing and referring to American Christians as a whole. American Christians proclaim lives of holiness and strive to be good, ethical followers of Christ, yet we turn our backs constantly on the beliefs that we hold so dear. I find it troubling that we seem to overlook that the God of the Universe came onto this Earth to teach the way to be, watched the world turn against His purpose, lived among us, was still rejected because he didn’t fit expectations, turned everything upside down to get things back on track, and now invites us to follow Him and find our own place in His story.
Here are three disclaimers. One, I’m not saying I’m any better than anyone else in the holiness category, but rather I wrote this to serve as a wake-up call, from one sinner to a world full of them. Two, I’m not saying that there aren’t good Christians in America. Three, I’m not trying to offend anyone.
But if we take an honest look at where we are at, essentially give ourselves a report card on how we’re doing, I think we might be on academic probation. Christian complacency is not a new topic; I’m not suggesting that I’m bringing forward a new idea here. But what is new, or at least in my opinion, is the necessity to pay attention to it. We’ve all heard it said in sermons that we can’t just go through the motions, go to church, try to be nice people, donate money or time, and then get to go to heaven. Pastors, priests, deacons, and preachers alike will all explain that a ticket to heaven requires an intense, passionate relationship with Jesus Christ.
So what are we doing? If we know that there is a glorious place for us if we follow these rules that have been laid out for us, why aren’t we just doing it? Because its not easy. It’s not easy to never swear, not judge, show love to everyone, be completely sexually pure, make decisions that would honor God at all times, and everything else that the Bible demands. But it wasn’t supposed to be easy. Maybe that’s what we are missing. This set of rules and guidelines set by God was not made so we can check them off a list and go on with our lives. We have to pay attention to it at all times, essentially going through life attempting to look at situations through the eyes of Jesus, rather than our faulty humanity. Just because we saunter into St. John’s on Sunday night doesn’t eliminate the fact that we were out on Saturday night being far from holy.
Maybe another reason that we are so complacent oftentimes, is because we focus on the happy Bible passages which remind us of God’s everlasting love; and tend to ignore the “tough ones.” Everyone’s been there, you read or hear a Bible passage that tells us what we should and shouldn’t be doing and seems harsh; so we turn instead to John 3:16 and hear that God gave us his son or Jeremiah 31:3 saying “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.” But we probably turn the page quickly when we read Titus and hear “They profess that they know God; but in works, they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” The word “reprobate” literally means in the religious context, “a soul not worthy to be saved; so immoral as to not earn salvation.” These are not light things! Even the straightforward lesson from Matthew 5 of loving your enemy and praying for those who persecute you are the source of much stress.
It is not easy to hear that these steps to heaven and life with God are necessary. And in our society, we tend to say “well its just so hard to be holy; there’s too much wrong in the world” or “there are so many distractions” or “There is a lot of evil so I’m doing better than most.” I guess I have a few things to say about that:
1) God is going to judge us individually. It is not a scaled grading system. He is grading each of us and will not “let you through” just because we did less wrong than a convicted felon, or even an infamous leader. If we don’t follow what God says now, we won’t be able to make it up to Him at the end of our lives.
2) We need to stop making excuses. So what if there are distractions to having a relationship with God? It just means we need to try harder to have a good relationship with him. There are ways to make this relationship stronger, even on a college campus.
3) Jesus came to the world and died for our sins for a reason. We often seem to forget that as long as we love Him and truly care about the guidelines He set out for us, then we are allowed to slip up because the grace of God will bring us forgiveness and love. God knows that it isn’t easy and that is why forgiveness exists – what a blessing!