There’s an old story that goes something like this: A group of pastors were discussing what makes Christianity different from all other religions. They brought up the idea of the incarnation of Christ. Quickly others pointed out that other religions had deities that took on human form. Someone else mentioned the resurrection of Christ. Again, some people sitting in the room brought up that others had been brought back from the dead.
One of the people in the room was the author CS Lewis. He spoke up and said that what differentiates Christianity from all other religions is one word: grace. Buddhism has 8 levels to achieve. Judaism has the covenant with 100’s of laws to follow. Hinduism believes in Karma and reincarnation- what you do in this life determines what you will be in your next life. Islam has a very strict moral code. Only Christianity teaches that we are accepted by God because of what Someone else has done for us.
I’ve heard this story before but heard it again this morning. It got me thinking about how this really could be taken to argue that Christianity is a lazy faith. We can spend our lives with no regard to God in our morality, relationships or ethics and then say “I’m sorry” at the end of our lives and everything’s cool. What a nice idea for most of us- if we only knew when that last day was then we’d really be able to get away with some stuff!
It makes sense though why so many on the outside of the Christian faith have a poor view of those that profess Christianity- because so many who profess it (including myself) misunderstand it. If our understanding of Christianity is that we can live the way we want, pick the ideas in Scripture that are easy to us or fit our personality and “repent” of not doing the rest then we are believing in a false gospel.
Several years ago I was working with some students and used an illustration where I read a passage out of the Bible. When I was done reading the passage I tore the page out of the Bible. In the past when I’ve used this illustration it got all kinds of angry responses from students- I would make the point that is how God feels when we ignore what He tells us in the Bible. However, this time the students reaction was much different from those in the past. They said “yeah, that makes sense to take it out. There are probably other things that shouldn’t be in there anyway”. Needless to say I was at a loss for words.
But, what those students verbalized is how many people feel- the passages in the Bible that talk about sacrifice, forgiveness, protecting and defending the weak should be taken out of the Bible. Still others would say that passages talking about sexual morality (homosexuality, abstinence, marital faithfulness) are outdated and should be taken out. There are groups who are dedicated to taking out any kind of supernatural act and exclusive talk in the Bible. There is even a new Bible out that downplays the masculinity of God and says “God our Heavenly Parent”!
In our bulletin this morning our pastor wrote this story “Dr. M.R. De Haan wrote “In baptism, therefore, the believer entered into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ. A person might be a believer and keep it strictly a secret and thus avoid unpleasantness and suffering, but once he submitted to public baptism, he had burned his bridges behind him”.
This really stuck out to me as a unique way to think of Christianity- burning our bridges to safety and a self-centered life. Burning a bridge to a life that appears to be religious but is really devoid of any devotion or passion. The idea of a public pronouncement of our intent to identify with Jesus is more than getting dunked, sprinkled or splashed. It’s more than eating stale crackers and drinking grape juice.
If we were to take the gospel seriously (again, me included) then we would see that grace is the fire that burns the bridge to our past. It is a catalyst for a changed life. It is not a pass to be lazy. It is a call to live every moment with purpose- to be attentive to what God is doing around us and to be abandoned to His vision for our lives.
Our motivation to live out this purpose is changed from “I have to” to “I can’t “not” do it”. We are compelled and restless to live out this new life. Our hearts come alive when we are living in harmony with God’s Spirit within us. But, they also dry up when we ignore and stifle what He is saying to us- whether it’s letting go of grudges, trusting Him with our finances, confessing unfaithfulness to our spouse, asking forgiveness or just living life on our own terms.
My prayer is that we will see the bridge has been burned behind us- there is no turning back. We are fully identified with Christ and we don’t have time to be lazy.
Awake my soul!