Our pastor was talking during Sabbath School about the “casual Christian”, and the thought just keeps popping back into my head. Casual Christian. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been a casual anything in my life. If I’m doing something, I’m doing it. Sometimes that’s to my own detriment, of course, because I pick the wrong things to do sometimes.
My husband and I started on this journey together shortly after we got together, about nine years ago. To be perfectly frank, neither of us was leading anything close to a Christian lifestyle at that point. I’d been in and out of different churches for about ten years, looking for one that felt right – looking for one that I thought was telling me what the truth was. Marty was what we call a Recovering Catholic; he’d been raised Catholic and the church had scarred him and turned him completely off religion. However, once he got his teeth into it again he was and is like a pit bull with a bone.
The more we immerse ourselves in the Bible and the teachings of Christ, the more it occurs to me what an inconvenient thing true Christianity is.
But I’m a good person; isn’t that enough? I don’t go around stealing stuff, cheating on my spouse or killing people. Does that sound familiar? I mean, haven’t you heard people say that when the topic of religion comes up? I live a moral life, I don’t hurt anybody. I hear that a lot. I don’t think I ever said it, though. See, I was never what I would have considered to be a good person. I didn’t live a moral life. I did hurt people.
When I started reading the Bible, and really started studying it, I started to realize how inconvenient a truly Christian life was going to be. I was going to have to give stuff up. I was going to have to start doing things that weren’t all that comfortable for me. And I was going to have to stop doing some thing that were very comfortable for me. Like I said, my husband and I weren’t the kind of people to do things halfway. If we were going to do this, then we were going to do it.
One of the first things we did was commit to getting married. We’d been living together for about a year already. Marriage wasn’t anything we took lightly – he’d already done it twice before and I’d never been married before. We were coming at it from two different ends of the spectrum but we each had real concerns that we had to work through. In the end we realized that the bottom line was that being obedient to God meant taking the plunge. So, we did. Lots of our friends were and still are in long-term relationships, often with kids involved and it’s convenient for them to not be married. For us, the inconvenient path was the best one. Neither of us has any regrets about it – marriage has been a blessing beyond anything I ever expected.
When Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt he led them to the Red Sea and as they stood on the shore, God parted the sea for them and they walked across on dry land. They saw the sea parted before they took their first steps out. Later, God wanted them to cross the Jordan river – no small task! But God waited until they’d taken their first steps into the water before He parted that water. Now that’s faith in action! Sometimes He does the same with us now – he wants to see that we trust Him. Take those first steps and trust God to make the way possible.
There are something like five thousand different flavors of Christianity now. Some of the differences are very small, and some of them are very large. I believe that anyone wanting to take on the label of “Christian” should first read the Bible and have a good foundation of knowledge about what it says before committing to any one church. Know the truth, and then see what church it is that can be found that teaches what’s in the Bible. The apostle, Paul, in Galatians 1:8 says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”
It sounds to me like Paul took the Word of God pretty seriously – and like there might be a pretty heavy penalty for anyone preaching a false gospel. What if you realized the church you were going to was preaching stuff that contradicted what was in the Bible? What if you realized that they were spreading a false gospel; a false doctrine? Would you go find another church? “But I like the people there.” I hear that a lot. Or, “My family has always gone to that church.” So…what’s more important; going to a place where you have friends and hearing false doctrine, or going out to find another church where you might hear the truth of God’s word? I guess it depends on where your heart is. I’m reminded of Lot’s wife and how she turned around to look back at the cities as they were destroyed. She’d been told not to look back, but her heart was in the world, not with God. Where’s your heart? My husband and I went to a bunch of different churches and we made friends in each one. But when we reached the point where we were hearing too much stuff that didn’t agree with what was in the Bible, we had to move on. Was it convenient? Not at all. I went to our current church by myself the first time, just to check it out. I didn’t know anybody, and it was a denomination that was a little off the beaten track so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Convenient – not. Comfortable – not.
Is it convenient going to church on Saturday when everyone else goes on Sunday? Not so much. Is it convenient not being able to transact business from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday? No, it’s not. But it’s what’s in the Bible and I believe that Sabbath was never changed by God (only by man) from Saturday to Sunday, so this is what we do. We always worked on Saturdays. We don’t anymore. In fact, Marty used to work seven days a week so it was a really inconvenient thought – giving up a day of pay every week. We were struggling already! Guess what – we bring in more money now and don’t have to struggle nearly as much only working six days a week.
We used to go to church on Sunday and then come home and watch football for the rest of the day. That was convenient! Now we keep the Sabbath – the whole day. Sundown to sundown.
Tithe – OMG, don’t mess with my money, God doesn’t need my money! Right? No, God doesn’t need my money for anything; however he does want my obedience. We tithe every week now, and does it come as a surprise that our bank account always seems to have enough money in it to take care of our needs? Honestly, we don’t even miss the ten percent. But it took us a lot of time to get to that level of trust. We really had to trust God on this one because is it convenient to write that check every week when we know that bills need to be paid? Not even a little convenient.
Love my enemies? Are you serious? Do you know what people have done to me? I’m supposed to not only forgive them but love them? That’s a big bullet-biter for me. “I love you in that I don’t wish you any specific harm,” used to be my motto. But I’ve had to do better than that. God wants me to be better than that. Is that easy? Or fun? Absolutely not! I’m not even there yet on that one. But every day I’m a little further away from the vindictive, grudge-holding person I used to be. And I have greater peace for it. First John, 2:9 says, “ Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.” I don’t want to be in that darkness anymore. I spent most of my life there. It’s familiar and comfortable there, but that’s not where I need to be anymore.
Any way you look at it, being a follower of Christ is inconvenient – but the blessings, not just the little ones here but the big ones that are stored up for later, are worth moving out of my comfort zone for. I don’t want to be identified as a Christian because I’m wearing a big, pretty cross around my neck. I want to be identified as a Christian because I reflect Jesus in the way that I live and the way I treat others. If that means inconveniencing myself – I’m good with that.