A Rule Follower

August 31, 2009 at 1:26 am (Faith, Life)

I feel like a lot of time when people talk about Christianity, they talk about a set of rules.  Non-Christians may talk about how they see Christianity at least in part as a set of rules they have to follow to make it to Heaven or just to “be good.”  Christians spend a lot of time talking about how non-Christians view Christianity as a set of rules they need to follow.  The Christians then go on to talk about how there’s really so much more and it’s not about a set of rules and, really, the rules that are there are for our best interest, anyway.

I’m not at all the type of person that tries to hide from others what I think.  I’d actually even go as far as to describe myself as both outspoken and opinionated.  When it comes to my faith, I’m definitely not one of those people who stands on the sidewalk downtown screaming at everybody to repent or spend forever in Hell, but I’d definitely be willing to offer others my perspective if I happened to be a part of some theological discussion.

A common example of a “rule based” discussion is when non-Christian and Christian talk about their views on sex before marriage.  I’ve had this talk with plenty of people and have heard all sorts of different views.  I’ve been told you can’t really know if you want to spend the rest of your life with someone unless you know that person is good at sex.  Or maybe that it’s really up to you whether or not you feel like having sex before marriage, but that it’s stupid to just not have sex if you want to simply because God says no.  I of course do the “Christian thing” by replying with the fact that there is really so much more to it than that.  I’ll talk about how two become one and how much more special sex is when you wait.  I’ll also talk about all the different consequences that can come from not waiting like feeling used or dirty.  Or even if you don’t feel used or dirty at the time because you’re at least dating the person, how much more emotional and intimate the relationship instantly becomes and how awful it can end up being if the two people were to break up.

Another example is the idea of drinking under aged.  I feel like there’s this unending debate about why 21 is the “magic age” where people all of the sudden are old enough to drink responsibly.  I have plenty of friends who would explain to me that they drink because if you’re old enough to vote, die for your country, etc, you should be old enough to drink.  Other people talk about how in other countries, where drinking is a bigger part of the culture at a younger age, there is less irresponsible drinking going on.  I was actually talking to one of my close Christian friends the other day about the idea of underage drinking.  I said that I don’t think I’ll necessarily drink any more responsibly at 21 than I would now or than I would have when I was 18.  (Honestly, the idea of getting drunk just isn’t appealing at all to me.)  Basically, the main reason I am looking forward to being old enough to drink is just the fact that my friends who are already old enough to drink (and also chose not to drink before they turned 21) don’t feel awkward have a beer when we’re all hanging out, even though I can’t.  I also went in to explaining that while I think I could very well drink just as responsibly now, I don’t because God calls me to follow the law, and the law says I have to be 21.  I explain that if I were at a party and drank, even if I “drank responsibly,” it would just be very hard for me to witness to others.  How could I possibly explain to someone that I found a Love worth giving everything in the world up for just so I could follow Him, when I’m not even willing to give up a few extra months of drinking?

This post, however, is not about sex before marriage, and it’s not about drinking before being legal to drink.  It’s about the fact that I feel, as Christians, a lot of us tend to follow the “rules” for the wrong reason.  In both of the above scenarios, my opinions stand.  However, I challenge us as Christians to look a little deeper into why we do and don’t do the things we do and don’t do for Jesus.  You know those times when you say or do something and don’t even realize what your real subconscious motivation is?  For me, I think this is one of those things.

How often do I do the “right” thing, the “Christian” thing, for all the wrong reasons?  I mean, yes, my opinions and beliefs behind the way I live my life as I do still stand.  BUT I would be lying to say that the idea of sex before marriage doesn’t at least in some small subconscious way terrify me because one of the consequences could very well be people’s opinion of me changing.  Same with drinking before I’m 21.  Because as a person who isn’t at all afraid to talk about my faith openly, I don’t want to be looked at as a hypocrite.

Here’s the issue: Is it really even any better to do the “right thing” if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.  I mean yes, I obviously want so much to set an example for Christ and for people to see Him through the way I live my life.  But I cannot honestly say I’ve never at some point been motivated to not drink by the idea that Christians and non-Christians alike may take notice in the fact that I am making some sort of a sacrifice for something I believe…the focus being on my sacrifice over why I’m doing it.  I cannot honestly say I’ve never at some point been motivated to take part in some sort of deep or controversial discussion simply because I think my opinion on the particular topic at hand is at least one of the best being offered in the conversation, and I want people to see how full of wisdom and maturity I really am (because you know I basically don’t have anything else to learn about life at my old age of 20).

I mean how terrible is that?!  And here’s the thing, I know that as much as I may go on and on about God’s grace and not judging others, I am completely terrified at the idea of being “found out.”  I think a lot of Christians are.  We don’t want others to know how we’ve messed up in the past, regardless of God’s grace that we’re trying so hard to convey.  Well, why?  Aren’t the stories that we try so to hard to hide from others often the stories that offer the best picture of God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness and love?  So what, I’m willing to tell others that it’s ok and that God forgives them for messing up, but I’m not willing to tell how much He’s really forgiven me?  Sure, I’ll say that He’s forgiven me, but to be honest about how not perfect I really am would just be tragic.

It’s not ok because it limits God.  As much as people may talk about living a certain way just to bring glory to God, I would challenge that if they are  as terrified as I am at times of being “found out,” then maybe part of the motivation is in fact simply to bring glory to themselves.  Maybe, as I have found is the case with me at times, the actual motivation is simply to be viewed as a strong Christian, which honestly means it’s still all about that person, and not our Saviour.

I’m not perfect, and that’s what’s so great about grace.  It’s like the things I’ve done in the past never even existed.  So rather than be worried that people may look upon as a “not as good Christian” because of my mistakes, it’s time to stop worrying about how others view me.  It’s not about me.  It’s not about the rules I follow.  It’s about Jesus Christ, and if He alone is not the sole motivation for everything I choose to do and not do, then it all means nothing.

So…this is definitely kind of scatter brained because it’s been weighing on my heart and I just needed to get the thoughts out.  Still I challenge you, if you are a Christian, to think about what motivates you every day.  Is it really always Jesus?  Or is it sometimes your want to be viewed as a Christ follower rather than just your heart to follow Him?


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