Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on doors. Muslims eat halal food. Hare Krishnas wear distinctive orange robes. Buddhists meditate. What of Christians?
All these religions are committed to some kind of meaningful custom that sets them apart and honours their concept of god. Modern Christianity, however, seems increasingly devoid of distinction, bending to the ways of its culture.
I realise this isn’t necessarily bad or wrong. It is in an attempt to remain relevant, after all, that the modern church features pop-style worship music over traditional hymns, services that employ the latest mixed-media innovations, shortened sermons to meet our shortened attention spans and social media engagement.
But how do you know me to be a follower of Christ? What sets me apart?
The Bible is the believer’s life manual. If that’s the case, and we’re serious about our convictions, perhaps we should be recognised by its physical presence in our home, handbag, workplace and car. Perhaps we should be set apart by the fact we have our nose in it at every opportunity. Not a common sight, sadly.
The Bible tells us how to live in a very practical way.
No swearing (Ephesians 4:29). Yet, I know Christians with serious potty mouth.
No sex before marriage (Hebrews 13:4). But I know plenty of Christians who ‘try before they buy’.
Keep the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11). But very few Christians set Sunday, or any day, apart for God – no further than attending the obligatory church service.
Which brings me to my original question: how do you know a modern Christian? Are we just covering the faith base or are we prepared to allow our God-conviction to permeate every facet of our lives? To live as Jesus did.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:22-25)
Christianity is more than religion. We do have distinguishing customs but the difference is that Jesus came to set us free from the need for repetitive rituals.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
I see my faith as a circle.
Jesus accepts me as I am, no need for sacrifice or ritual, no need to alter my diet or dress. There’s 180 degrees of the circle. Because I love Him and am devoted to Him, I want to please Him, which completes the circle, 360 degrees of continuous love and freedom (in truth, my ‘circle’ looks more like a jellybean on a binge – I stuff up, God forgives, I get back on track, I stuff up, God forgives… you get the picture!)
Speaking to the Christian readers out there: is your life evidence of your faith? And to those who do not carry the ‘Christian’ tag, who perhaps are disillusioned by religion: freedom, not rules, is where it’s at. Don’t believe the misconception.
First published in The Examiner newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday October 1, 2013.