We probably all have that friend who likes to make up new rules to the game so they always end up with what they want. Some names come to mind to describe those people, and none of them are very flattering. I think the worst part, though, is when they try and lay claim to being the “Monopoly champion” when they really just invented a new game altogether. But hey, if Mono-parchees-ictionary was a thing, they’d totally deserve a trophy.
Okay, all joking aside, surely I’m not the only one noticing how this trend carries over to religion and spirituality.
Check out these five beliefs I’ve noticed are commonly held by Christians despite each one directly contradicting the simple fundamentals of Christianity:
- “I’m a good person.”
- “The Bible isn’t reliable.”
- “It doesn’t matter what I think about Jesus.”
- “My feelings/opinions are more important.”
- “We’re all going to the same place.”
We need to have a hard talk about this.
The irony of Christians believing any one of these statements would be comparable to a Muslim saying, “I don’t care about Muhammad,” or a Buddhist saying, “I don’t think that whole ‘nirvana’ thing is real.”
I know it’s easier to believe that stuff… but c’mon guys– if you’re going to make up your own truth, at least give it a new name. Christianity is way too clearly defined for your reinterpretation.
Hinduism seems to be vague enough. You might fit your beliefs under one of their millions of deities. Bahai’i might fit nicely into what you already believe as well. That’s progressive and modern-thinking enough that it just may give you the confirmation you’re looking for. If all else fails and you realize you’re just unwilling to follow or trust anything but yourself, just name this new and improved truth after yourself.
There’s even no shame in admitting you’re agnostic. All that means is you’re not sure and don’t have enough confidence to believe in one thing or the other.
You might be shocked to see a pastor encouraging people to call themselves anything but a Christian, but don’t get it twisted. I’m simply encouraging people to call themselves what they already are. Whether you stay that way is another story entirely.
Words have power–the power to bring clarity or confusion. And I want to affirm for every reader out there that it is 100 percent okay to not call yourself a Christian if you don’t feel the Judeo-Christian worldview is true. What’s not okay is to call yourself a Christian despite having no intention of accepting the truth claims Christianity is built upon.
I get it. Straight Christianity (without our two cents) is far less appealing from a worldly perspective than the vast majority of people think it is. People are offended that absolute truth could exist, and we naturally care what people think of us, so we let them believe whatever they want as long as “God” is in the mix somewhere. We generally want the best for them and the reality of an absolute, definable truth means some people are wrong. That’s too exclusive and inconvenient. It’s too unaffected by our desires, which is a problem because we live in a world that tells us desire is all that matters. But since when has “the best for someone” not involved helping them know the truth? Preferring an illusion is fine, so long as that illusion isn’t leading its dreamer off a cliff.
We’re so taken by the charms and offerings of this world, but does the world really take such great care of us that we should want to be best friends with it? If I look honestly at what the world has given me, I can’t help but notice they’re all things that make me feel like I need more of them, with zero satisfaction or peace in the end. That honestly sounds more descriptive of heroine than a worthy life goal.
People are immovably set on following and believing only in themselves, but again, are we really so reliable? When was the last time you made a mistake? Even something tiny–like hitting the wrong light switch in the bathroom, forgetting your phone was in your lap as you stood up, or rounding the couch a step too soon and spending the next five minutes wondering in how many places you’ve just broken your pinky toe.
You’ve probably made another mistake since the one you’re thinking of and just haven’t realized it yet. Your mistakes might seem simple or harmless, but what if your entire existence hung in the balance of that one little, natural, simple idea that didn’t turn out quite like you planned? If you make little mistakes like that, is it so hard to believe that your idea of trusting yourself to reach good standing with God is guaranteed to go very wrong?
The hard reality is that, no, being a Christian is not synonymous with being nice, or even loving. You can be both and, if you wish, believe your life will regenerate into a cow after you die. Have at it, friend. I would probably rethink that, though, considering the volume of beef consumed in the States. A ferret might be a better choice. More time playing; less time chewing.
Christianity teaches that none of us are really as nice, loving or “good enough” as we paint ourselves up to be. That’s the entire point of accepting a Lord and Savior apart from ourselves. The idea of needing a Savior really shouldn’t be all that shocking if you’ve taken the time to truly get to know any human being that’s ever lived, including yourself, for that matter. Left to state our own case for why we imperfect creatures deserve to be in the presence of a perfect Creator, we are all in enormous trouble. “Perfect imperfections” are cute to say to our spouses and kids, and the love behind those statements is a beautiful thing. But it’s not a lovey-dovey game to a perfectly holy God. Imperfections are all we’ve ever known in this broken and jacked up world, but that’s not the case for God. His standard is not set at whatever we can reach when giving our best effort. Imperfections (as defined by the moral law He’s given us) ultimately serve as an illustration of our unworthiness.
Moving onto another unpopular belief: what you think about Jesus does matter. According to His own words, it’s absolutely critical. And if you reject the exclusivity implied by “no one comes to the Father except through me” or “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me,” you must also reject His friendlier (often used out of context) words like “love your neighbor as yourself,” “I don’t condemn you,” and “I will be with you always.” Calling someone a Christian because they agree we should “be known by our love” is no different than calling someone a Nazi because they agree we should “never deprive someone of hope.” And yes, that’s a direct quote from Adolf Hitler.
If the Bible isn’t reliable, you must also surrender anything you think you know about any other historical figure or space as a whole. Gravity is a myth because it’s never been seen or understood. Begrudging as it may be for some, the process of carbon dating in itself is less scientifically reliable than the basic existence of a man named Jesus (English), Yeshua (Hebrew), or Isa (Arabic) performing miracles and hanging on a cross in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. What the eye-witnesses of Jesus recorded of His teachings are actually more dependable than anything we teach our kids in school about Julius Caesar or Napoleon Bonaparte, who each used hired historians that wrote what they were told to write or else lost their heads. The refusal of Jesus’ apostles to simply recant what they wrote about Him, however, was the reason for their deaths. People don’t die for what they know is a lie. And based on how science works, the Bible has been proven to be more reliable than anything that’s ever been discovered–on this or any other planet.
Is it blind trust? Sometimes. But usually there’s a amazing amount of logic in it if we are only willing to give it a try. Even the parts that seem counterintuitive, the point is to practice something other than what we first desire. Curiosity is great, but skepticism is based on a lot less truth than we probably would like to admit.
Okay, the hard talk is over.
Not calling yourself a Christian won’t make you public enemy number one and it doesn’t even mean you don’t believe in a god. But no matter who you are, the claims of Jesus are worth looking deeper into when you’re trying to decide what truth you can stake your life on. Whatever you settle on, let it be with confidence and, just as importantly, with the correct label. Let it be known and clearly defined, because any eternal truth will allow for an unchangeable and testable definition.
If something in your heart keeps you coming back to Christianity, then personally I think that’s God telling you something. Keep seeking and keep asking, because as a truth claim, Christianity will need to have answers to your questions. I’ll warn you that those answers may not agree with what you want to believe, but in the quest for absolute truth, we all have to cope with undeniable things that we wish weren’t true. Truth isn’t based on individual desire, and praise God it isn’t because individual desire ultimately has only itself in mind.
The claims of Christianity have been tested and criticized more than any other belief system in the world, and it’s still standing. Not just standing–growing. Even among the most educated; even into the hardest, most brutal places where accepting the truth of Jesus can get you killed. I’ve been heartbroken but so encouraged by stories of Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle Eastern and African conflicts who were brutally killed simply because they were unwilling to renounce their faith in Christ. In some cases, they had heard about Jesus only a few weeks before their killers gave them that final chance to save their own lives. All they had to do was let go of what they believed to be true, and yet they were so sure and this truth was so valuable to them, they chose death.
And despite stories of such boldness and faith, here we are playing this game with ourselves, calling ourselves Christians as a synonym for “good person.” We casually dismiss our unwillingness to accept the identifying truths that distinguish Christianity from every other religion, all because it doesn’t agree with our individual desires. If we were just willing to give it a chance, we would see how much more satisfying and peaceful it is when taken in its entirety and not just the easy parts. People wouldn’t be willing to die for it if it wasn’t.