Something that I’ve noticed is that Christians really like rules.
Like, really like rules. We like to have our lives well-planned out–kind of like at a telemarketer’s office, with that giant binder with a response to anything the client might say.
See, rules are safe. They’ve got your back. If we know what we do or don’t do, we can just live by those rules and be the best Christian we can be. We’ll be holy, righteous, and on our safe little pedestal above everyone else. And we’re not looking down on them–by no means! Now we can help them also come up to our standard, and give them our sets of rules so that they too may be holy and blameless in the eyes of God.
But we’ve missed the point. See, that’s exactly what the Pharisees did. They were holy and righteous by the law, and their job was to help others become as perfect as they were. They spent hours upon hours teaching from the Scriptures, and I am sure that many of them were just trying to do the right thing. But when Jesus looked at them all he saw was a black heart, full of malice and pride and completely off track with what God wanted for his people. They had missed the reason behind the rules. They were exhausting themselves over petty rituals over and over again just to make sure they stayed as perfect as they could before the eyes of God–but God doesn’t look at outward appearances. He looks at the heart.
Rules aren’t even the same among Christians. Like, it would make sense if everyone believed the same things were right or wrong, but even within cultures it’s completely different. In Kenya, you’re not allowed to show your shoulders at all for modesty’s sake, but some of the dances they do would be completely inappropriate in Canada.
In Canada and the US, Christians don’t smoke. Ever. It’s seen as wrong because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. But in Europe, everyone smokes, but the Christian women do not wear makeup. Are either of them right, or wrong? Are their rules bringing them closer to Christ than Christians from other cultures? I’d say they aren’t.
See, we’re not called to be Christians–we’re called to love Christ. We’re not called to make rules, to say these super long lists of what we do and do not do. We’re simply called to live to please Christ. Now, if we live to please him, these things will follow. Don’t get me wrong. But that is NOT our goal, that is not our mission, and we miss out on so much if we limit our God to a God of rules and regulations.
And you know what the scary thing is? We’re not the only one missing out.
The people in this world are counting on us to show them God. We, as Christians, are here on earth for a reason. It’s not like as soon as you accept God you’re swept away into heaven for ever and ever in perfect bliss and happiness with Him. We are still here, and we’re here to help others see a little bit of what living with God is like.
But we can’t do that if we distance ourselves from everyone else. If we’re living based on rules, we separate ourselves from the rest of the world, since we just stop being relevant. I sometimes think that we use these rules as a cover-up for anything else, or as a safe barrier between us and everyone else. So we never have to be vulnerable, or ever get hurt. If we live according to standards and commandments, then nothing we do is our fault anymore, and if we don’t talk to people it’s because it would have made us violate one of our rules. We don’t want to face the reality of what it means to give everything to God, and so instead we make this intricate religion for ourselves.
But that’s not God’s plan for us–he doesn’t want robots. He wants people, because people are able to love and relate to those who don’t know him yet.
We’re called to be IN the world, but not of it. Sometimes we focus so much on the “but not of it” that we miss the part that says we’re supposed to still be in it! How are you supposed to ever effectively minister if you can’t even carry on a conversation with the kid next to you in class about their interests and their life? How are you supposed to ever show God’s love if you’re so caught up with doing everything right you forget to do the one thing we’re called to do–love each other despite our differences and despite our sins?
See, when we live according to rules something happens: we start to see each other based on actions rather than as people. We look at the people around us and see that kid who parties every weekend, that girl who’s an awful gossip, that guy who’s gay, and we don’t see John, Mackenzie and Alex. We see the sin, not the person. And I’ll bet you Jesus never saw Mary Magdalene as “that prostitute.”
I think that sometimes we focus so much on being Christian that we forget to show Christ.
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God doesn’t call us to be rule-keepers. He calls us to be holy and perfect through our love and devotion to Him.
And that can be scary. Rules are a security blanket–they help us stay away from anything that might taint our perfect life, and they make it look like we have it all together. But when we live for Christ instead of our own idea of what a Christian should be, we start to see amazing things happen, in our own lives as well as in those around us. God is asking us to give him free reign over our lives, and if we are hanging on to our religion so tightly that we have become irrelevant in our own culture we stop letting him use us.
So let’s stop just being Christians, and start actually following Christ.
Rebecca Danielle Gregoire