I love it when people are authentic. I’d rather deal with someone who tells me upfront that he can’t stand the sight of me than someone who greets me with broad smiles and calls me “brother” then turns around and assassinates me with his words the moment I leave. It’s always good to start off from a place of honesty than one of deceit.
When it comes to issues of faith and belief, the same kind of thinking applies, I think. I know many people who say they don’t buy into religion and I can really respect that. They are being honest about how they see things and that is an admirable thing. The reason why I say this is because, for a long time, I carried the title of a believer or ‘religious person’ but most of what I did was to please people. I attended all the church meetings, bought all the sermon tapes and DVD’s but, in reality, there was no conviction that was sincere and heartfelt. But, as anyone who has lived their life in pursuit of pleasing people will tell you, it’s not worth it. Human approval isn’t a goal worth living for. Better to live a life of conviction than to be pretentious.
Speaking of conviction, I have close friends who don’t believe that any kind of religion or faith is necessary as long as you do good works and live a good life. The whole idea of salvation – a key concept within the Christian experience – makes no sense to them because, as far as they are concerned, they are good people. “Why should I come and surround myself with a bunch of unforgiving hypocrites in a church every Sunday when I can just live a good life? I don’t need saving.”
This is actually a really valid question. Why? Firstly, there are some really horrible Christians in this world. If being a Christian produces such nastiness in people, why would anyone want to convert to that kind of thing? Secondly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to a good life or to doing good works. How could anyone fault that in a world full of so much evil? Some of the most generous and inspiring people alive today have probably never seen the inside of a church building.
I do think my friends slightly miss the point though. Faith in Jesus Christ is just that – faith in Jesus Christ, not faith in Christians. Christians are just as much in need of help as those who do not carry that ‘title’. It’s not so much about attending church or even about being good as it is about a relationship, based on faith, with Jesus Christ.
How often do we, when we have been close to someone who has had a positive impact on us, say to them, “Wow, I’m so happy to know you. My life wouldn’t be the same without you.” In a sense, we are crediting them with having saved us in some way. When you spend time with a good person, their goodness rubs off on you somehow. They make you better, not because you were bad before but because nobody is perfect and we can all be better. Whatever we expose ourselves to influences us. For me, faith in Christ is the same but on a deeper level. It’s about discovering a relationship with a perfect person and allowing Him to transform us.
I’d be so bold as to say we all need a Saviour, but perhaps not in the simplistic “turn or burn”, “fire and brimstone” way that it’s been sold to us. What are your thoughts?