This week I got into an online discussion over on Jefferson Bethke’s (author of Jesus>Religion and It’s Not What You Think) Facebook page. He posted an article called “9 Sins the Church Is Surprisingly OK With as Long as You Love Jesus” and asked what we thought.
I thought it was a stupid clickbait title with a clickbait image. (Definition of clickbait – content on the internet of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular website.) But I perused the article anyway. I didn’t get further than their supposed nine sins: fear, apathy, gluttony, worry, flattery, comfort, consumerism, patriotism, and lying, before I started feeling frustrated. Sure, some of those things can be considered “sins” and all of them can be bad for you, but really? Guilt and shame anyone?
I posted a comment expressing my feelings. Jefferson Bethke agreed! (I was a little excited about that.) Surprisingly, that comment quickly became the most popular, but then the disagreement started.
I was told that “you are deceived when you don’t know the scriptures.” and “You need to know Jesus, the Character of God, and your views will change. Otherwise you will suckle milk and look like you do for a very very very long time.” Nice. Thanks. Did you read my comment?
The personal disagreement didn’t bother me. I like a good, healthy discussion. But what did bother me was all the other comments on the post. People struggling with anxiety disorders feeling judged and condemned. “Christians” saying pretty mean things to each other… Lots of comments that didn’t sound like Jesus coming from people who claim His name.
As I sat and processed, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote a year ago. So here it is, with some tweeks because I can’t help myself.
Why do we choose to do right…to stop sinning?
Is it because we are afraid of making God angry or disappointed? Are we trying to keep God happy? Is it so that we will look good to other people? Are we trying to maintain a “good testimony” so that people will think we are “godly”?
Or maybe we don’t worry about it, because you know, grace! Doesn’t that mean we can do whatever we want and still be forgiven?
I find there are often two camps within Christianity: the rule-followers and the no-rulers. The rule-followers call the no-rulers “worldly” and “licentious” (which is a big word that just means they don’t follow the rules). The no-rulers call the rule-followers “close minded” and “legalistic”. Yada yada. You get the point.
I’m pretty sure that they are both wrong.
Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand firm in it. And do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Jesus wants us to be free. He died to set us free. Free from rules, and free from sin.
We shouldn’t be living under a yoke of slavery to rules trying to make God happy with us and avoid His judgment. He already put His wrath and the judgment for sin on His Son, Jesus Christ. Once we trust that Jesus took the punishment for our sin, we have access to a relationship with a God who loves us unconditionally!
But neither do we have to live under a yoke of slavery to sin. We don’t have to be controlled by our habits and addictions any longer. When Jesus died, He set us free from the punishment of sin, but also from the power of sin. He has given us His Holy Spirit to live inside of us and empower us to follow Him.
Why do I chose to do what is right? Mostly because I love Jesus and also because I don’t like the consequences that come when I choose sin and live for myself.
This article and the online debate that it generated once again reminded me that rules and standards cannot overcome our sin nature. Only Jesus can set us free, only by the power of His death and resurrection.
If your version of Christianity is about anything or anyone other than Jesus, then it’s wrong.
If you think you are making God happy with your rule following, you aren’t. If you care more about yourself and your good/fun life than you care about Jesus and developing a relationship with Him, then you are missing the point.
When our “Christianity” stops being about Jesus, His amazing grace, and our ability to know God through Jesus, it ceases to be true Christianity.
I’m finishing with a beautiful prayer from the apostle Paul. This is why we chose to do the right thing…not because someone showed us a list of 9 sins to avoid, but because of JESUS!
” I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19