All too often Christianity is cheapened to the point that it becomes a religion of rules in which the do's and don'ts (especially the don'ts) govern our lives. In an effort to please God by keeping ourselves separate from the world (2 Cor 6:17), we live lives that are unattractive, to say the least, to those who don't know Jesus. When our spiritual walk is governed by obligation and duty and law (this is what I ought to do, this is how good Christians behave) it leads to a lifeless religion based on rules and regulations.
Most people in the West were brought up in a shame-based religion. "People are dying and going to hell. Therefore you should preach the Gospel." Although it sounds spiritual, the reasoning is guilt-based. It implies, "Christ died for your sins and you are doing so little for him. You are guilty. You ought to be doing more." It attempts to shame us into different behavior.
The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives life!
What motivates us is important. The grace and love of Jesus operating inside us cause us to want to do what legalism says we ought to do.
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5 replies on “Non-religious Christianity”
This is so true! (I wish it wasn’t, but it is.)
I was raised in this “shame on you” environment. And although I try not to, and am doing better, the thoughts won’t go away. Help! How do I stop?
Hi Felicity. Years ago I read something by John White that blew my mind. Commenting on the man who found the treasure in the field (and the pearl collector who discovered the pearl of great price), he said that they were not “virtuous or noble” by forsaking all. Rather, they did what any sane person in their situation would have done. They found something that was worth more than everything they owned and so they gladly did the necessary to obtain it. And so, White says, Christianity is a divine obsession with a heavenly pearl. It made perfect sense, and since then I’ve used this simple insight richly in teachings and sermons.I think legalism is what happens when we preach the “forsaking all” without first presenting the treasure (or when we present the treasure in a way that obscures its magnificence!).
Tobie, that’s a beautiful picture and I love your application of it. If Jesus is presented first and foremost, then our response to his “magnificence” is never going to be legalistic.