A friend posed the question "What does being a Christian mean to you?" to our Missional Community group recently. I took a bit to gather thoughts and respond. I really felt strongly about what I wrote last night, so I thought I'd write this post and share it with y'all:
When I think about how God has changed my life, man, it's unreal. To think that someone like me who has been so dang selfish and self-centered and self-righteous for his entire life could possibly experience the glory that God has provided; it's unreal. When I think about the decisions I make in my life and realize that basically every choice is made for my own benefit, it makes me wonder if I deserve ANYTHING that God has provided. A family that loves me, friends to rely on, the ability to play music and write and read and think; these are gifts far beyond anything I deserve in the world. And I haven't even mentioned the new Jerusalem and the everlasting life provided by Jesus! dang.
Being a Christian, to me, means the gospel of love. How can we not be on board with that? A gospel that preaches to love God and love others. That's it. Pretty dang simple, but, of course, endlessly complicated. How do we love everyone all the time? The jerk co-workers, rude people at the grocery store, or self-serving politicians and businesspeople we spend all day complaining about. How do we love these people? Think about it, really, though. It is possible. It is SO possible to love the unlovable. All we have to do is put them before us. That stuff is not out of reach. We do it all the time when we say hi to people we pass on the sidewalk, show grace to friends who we can't rely on, or occasionally give money blindly to someone asking for it.
The fact is that it's possible through the Holy Spirit. ANYTHING good that we do is led by the Holy Spirit. That feeling we get when we feel completely satisfied by following a gut feeling to do something out of our comfort zone or even something within our comfort zone. When we talk to someone sitting in the corner of a gathering by him/herself or offer prayer to someone who really needs, even if they don't believe in prayer, those are the times that the Spirit works through us. Now, think about how that feels, how possible it is to act through the Spirit, and realize that Christ ALWAYS acted through the Spirit. Always! Dang, how great would that feel? It would feel so magical and surreal to completely live within the guidance of the Spirit. That was Jesus.
You know, I feel a certain amount of connectedness through Christianity, as well. Living in the Northwest, we encounter people all the time who find connectedness through some agnostic spiritual experience aside from Christianity. I don't know about you, but those people make me feel like they're missing something badly. It's hard to explain (aside from the Holy Spirit), but I really feel a genuine gap in their life experience. That gap is a lack of Jesus. Their depravity has not been exorcised like ours has. Rather, it has been exorcised, they just don't accept that exorcism. I don't have a concrete explanation here, but that's what I feel.
In closing, I want to leave you with some scripture that Abe used a couple of Sundays ago when he was preaching about God's love for us. In 1 John 4:9-11 and Romans 5:8-9, John and Paul write about how God sent His son, Jesus, to die for us. That's some cool stuff. Or John 15:12-13, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." That's so rad.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, check out 1 John 3:1 from the Message: "What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to." Whoa! That's some serious stuff! This is all about FOLLOWING BY BLIND FAITH. Faith is faith because we can't see it or touch it (not for the last 2000 years, anyway). If we understood God and everything He had planned, what sort of God would He be?