In the 21st century, the American Church is more known for what it is against than what it is for. I was watching a late night talk-show host interview people on the street asking them to recite the “Ten Commandments.” Most of the people did pretty good. “Don’t steal. One God. Dont say God’s name in vain. Don’t kill. Don’t lie.” But what stuck out to me was one person’s response “You can’t do anything.” Admittedly, I laughed.
From the outside perspective and many newer-Christian perspectives, that is pretty much true. Not only can I not do anything outlined in the Commandments, but I can’t have an abortion, have sex outside of marriage, watch porn, lust after women, be homosexual, be prideful, be angry at someone, curse my brother, cheat on my math test, be selfish, gamble, drink alcohol, or smoke crack. I can’t even watch the Packers crush the 9ners because I am suppose to be at church on Sunday. This is just a pinch of all the “rules” projected by Christianity.
If I can learn to adapt the Ten Commandments into my daily lifestyle, I might have a chance at this mystical place called Heaven. If I can somehow only have sex with my wife, not be homosexual, learn to bite my tongue when my brother pisses me off, be drug an alcohol free, and upgrade to a DVR so I can watch the game after church, then I might be able to do this Christianity thing. Believing in God is pretty crazy, but just in case He is out there, I will live a “good life,” because a “good God” wouldn’t send a “good person” to a “bad place,” if it exists of course.
If you were like me and have fallen into this way of thinking, you are a victim of what I’ve learn to understand as “the Anti-Gospel.” This is not only the opposite of the Gospel, but living this way opposes the Gospel. We’ve missed it. I’ve read the Bible. It is packed full of rules…rules that seem to be impossible to follow. After I read the scripture buried in Leviticus telling me I can no-longer enjoy the blessing that bacon is, I decided to read a little more carefully. It turns out, Christianity was never about following rules. It was never about trying or faking to be perfect. It was never about earning your way to a place called Heaven. It was never about waking up and trying not to be gay or watch porn. It was never about not having sex or DVRing Packer games. I missed it.
Lets think about this. According to Christianity, there was this guy named Jesus who called Himself the Son of God. As the story goes(leaving out several details), He was crucified on a cross for the sins of men, something the Bible calls grace. His only wish was that people would love Him back. If I choose to live for Jesus, then the death that Jesus suffered pays the debt of everything I’ve ever done wrong.
Wait a second, if Jesus pays my debts for me then why am I trying so hard to follow this book of rules I could never master? Here is where I respond, “exactly!” You see, there is no way I will ever earn my way into heaven, yet I keep trying. I keep trying to be perfect and follow all of the rules, as if my fate depends on myself. But living and thinking like this is saying “I don’t need Jesus, I am going to try and do it myself.” This, of course, is not the Gospel. The Gospel is, as much as I don’t deserve it, if I choose to follow Jesus, He’s got me covered.
Now, if you have been going to church for a while you may be about to freak out on me. You are going shout out some holiness and righteous scriptures and how Jesus didn’t die so we could live however we want. In response to you I would say, “I agree.” Now, on the other side of the room is the person who is reading this and is fist pumping because they’ve just learned about their ‘get out of jail free’ card. “Jesus doesn’t want me to follow all these rules, He just wants me to live free!” To that person I would likewise agree, to an extent. Christianity isn’t about following rules, its about following Jesus.
The Anti-Gospel will lead you to think that you need to follow the rules, but the authentic Gospel reminds you its all about following Jesus. I gave up following the rules a long time ago because I always fell short, I always messed up, and then I would tear myself apart. This constant feeling of failure almost drove me away from Christianity. But then I began to realize it wasn’t about trying hard and not being good enough, it was just about Jesus. Simply saying “I want Jesus.” Take your focus off of everything that you’re doing wrong and focus on the person who did everything right. That’s the Gospel. It was never about earning it yourself, it has always been about honoring the One who earned it for you.
If you struggle with the idea of Christianity because of all the hypocrites I want to challenge you to do something. If you have embraced Christianity and are feeling dry and defeated or you are searching for a little more in life, I want to challenge you as well. Don’t look at Christianity like a restricted lifestyle. Don’t look at Christianity like “things I can and can’t do if I want to be right with God.” If it makes you feel better, don’t even call yourself a Christian. Just pursue Jesus. Don’t look at the Bible like a list of rules, but read the stories about Jesus, who He was, and how He lived. Lastly, quit trying to fix yourself. Instead, redirect your time and energy to learning about Jesus and I challenge you to pray to Him. Take a season to pursue Jesus. If nothing happens, you can go back to your old life of working to be the person that you want. What I have found in my own life is the more I pursue Jesus, the more I find peace with the man I see in the mirror.