Good morning to people who do not like Christians:
Today is Easter Sunday. As Muslims conduct search-and-destroy operations against Christians, and as progressive Americans ramp up anti-Christian rage, I am going to do something different with this blog post. This post is written specifically to those who harbor either rabid hatred or smoldering dislike against people who call themselves Christians. This post is not written to convince anyone of anything. It is written to state exactly what the Christian faith is. So, if you think the notion of some sort of Christian God is ridiculous superstition, then this post is for you. You may read here and see exactly what it is you think is so absurd. Here is a concise, informational description of what Christians actually believe:
God is. Not some sort of fuzzy floating presence. God. As in “Biblical.”
The bad news: Sin. Quoted from the Bible, both before Jesus and after: “All we, like sheep, have gone astray.” “We.” You — me — them (paraphrasing “The Blues Brothers”). “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” “None is righteous, no, not one.” To be clear: Christians believe that they, too, are sinful people, and that no amount of church-going, hymn-singing, or moralizing suffices to “fix” their own problem, much less yours.
You may reject this sin notion. You hold to some form of right and wrong, but you may be uncomfortable with the Bible’s clarity on this, and you may not be sure what makes something “wrong.” Okay. Christians look to the Bible for these answers. But, if all are sinful, then is that it? Are we all stuck in that condition? Cursed with sin? Abandoned by the God who supposedly loves us? If there is an afterlife, and God is there, and we are sinful — this is not looking good for sinful people who cannot do enough “good things” to merit God. Christians believe that sin separates all of us from God.
The good news: God literally came to us out of love, as Jesus. Jesus lived among us, and sacrificed himself to pay for our sins. Dead, buried, and even now alive. The good news, Christians call “salvation“: restoration to God despite our sins.
Very strange, yes, indeed! From our post-modern, post-Christian, materialist westerner perspective, it’s utter nonsense. We are more prone to believe that the cosmos is all that there is, and that we are just fancy stuff, bubbled up out of gooey stuff. We want to believe that — if there is an afterlife — we’ll float around there happily because we were pretty good. Christians are not popular for dispelling that notion, by saying that no one is good enough.
But, Christians do not just preach doom. Christians believe that Jesus’ sacrifice paid for our sins so that no one has to be good enough. Note how universal His sacrifice was. No one is left out. “For God so loved the world….” the Scripture reads. Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf is what Christians call “God’s gift of salvation.” Christians may also refer to this as “grace” (salvation freely given by God, not earned by man).
Christians believe that each of us may reject His gift, or accept His gift. But, Jesus’s sacrifice is the way of salvation, already done, already accomplished, and free for the taking. Otherwise, restoration to God would have to be up to us and, remember? Christians believe that no one can be “good enough” to merit God.
Put differently: Christianity is not about anyone being good enough. Christianity is about Christ. No pilgrimages required. No community service necessary. No amount of donations will buy your way up some scale. Whether LGBT or straight, just recognize you’re a sinner, repent, accept His forgiveness, and enjoy working out your life, under God, having been “saved” by God, not by your own achievement.
But, people tend toward the achievement model. Achievement lets us win, lets us jockey for position against others, and some come out on top. People in general have a hard time accepting this simple message of “grace.”
People are prone to make up rules and force others to adhere to rules. Some Christian people recognize that tendency even in the church, and call that “legalism.”: Christian legalism is the heresy that whatever God wants of us is achieved by our own effort, our disciplined adherence to the “rules.”
Secular legalism is similar: a belief that the best and brightest among us, given enough authority and power, can make and enforce the “right” rules enough to solve humanity’s problems. The tangible evidence of secular legalism is the pervasive regulatory state. Secular legalism clashes with Christian grace because secular legalism puts faith in man and man’s rules. Christianity says that faith is unfounded: that there are no best and brightest; that there are sinners, in need of grace and salvation.
You may be skeptical, but, I’m telling you: Christianity is not about being good or enjoying pointing the finger at those who aren’t. No Christian claims to live without sin. This doesn’t mean that Christians think they can go on living as before. You see Christians who already know that God has forgiven them for sin, still trying to put sin behind them. And, you see us not doing all that good a job of it. Sinners, but forgiven: that defines the human being who has accepted God’s salvation accomplished on Easter about 2,000 years ago. If you accuse Christians of being hypocrites, you are correct. I am sure that on my best day I am hypocritical about something, someone.
I must emphasize: do not think that being a Christian is pretense to being some holier-than-thou perfect person. Christians, of all people, comprehend that they are flawed sinners. Christians are motivated to try to do right because Christians want to obey God out of love for God. This is also because Christians come to see that sin has natural as well as spiritual consequences. It is best to avoid it. There are tangible ramifications. Avoiding sin is good sense and good for you.
And, in all of that is great freedom. Because, it’s not about “being moral” or carefully assuring that you follow hundreds of rules. Or, about forming committees to make all of the right rules and then punishing everyone who commits infractions. That is what the regulatory state does. Christians are about what Christ did. Out of love. In accepting God’s grace, you drop the burden to strive in futility to achieve “goodness.”
And, in that is the problem with Christianity. We people want to proclaim: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Christianity says, “No you aren’t. In trying to mutiny and become the captain, you will end up a galley slave chained to the oar forged by your own sin. Jesus holds out to you the key to unlock the chain, and all you have to do to be free is accept it. That is what Christians believe.
In such liberation, there is tremendous freedom. But, if you insist otherwise, good luck with all of those rules. It turns ugly.