Letter to those who believe in the God of the Bible, but who are not living accordingly
(This is an excerpt from a longer letter I wrote to a friend. Please keep in mind that because of this, the beginning and ending may seem a bit abrupt.)
It would be easier, at least perhaps in a way, if none of us had ever known of Christ and christianity. We could go on doing whatever we wanted, and though we wouldn’t always be happy, we wouldn’t experience the guilt and haunting of knowing we’re not walking in the path of truth. But we have this knowledge, and can’t escape it, though it seems you would prefer to.
I know that you’ve spoken of you dislike people who talk of their blatant disbelief and ridicule of christianity. However, in my mind, the position you’re in is worse. I think of the letter to Laodicea in the book of Revelation: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other!” It disgusts me how you “believe” yet refuse to live in light of that. It causes me to wonder what it is that you believe. In the bible, there is very little distinction between belief and action. They are normally so closely associated that they are even used interchangeably in some places. Beyond that, the book of James makes this idea very clear. So again I wonder what you actually believe that allows you act as you are. I’m tempted to think that you hold on bad theology.
As I’ve gone along in my life, I’ve done a lot of questioning and study to try and understand what following Christ is all about. I feel that christianity of the last couple of hundred years has gotten it wrong in many ways. I’ve learned much, even recently, about what seems to be closer to the truth. The basis for all is love, God’s love specifically. I’ve heard it put that the three persons of the Trinity (which is a mystery) live in constant perfect relation to one another, loving each other fully and totally. It is out of this abundance of love that God decided to create, in order to have something more to love. How wonderful the idea!
I know it is said all of the time, that God loves us. But I think to often this isn’t really what we think. I have begun to understand this myself only more recently. It seems to me that christianity has been made out to be more about being perfect and appearing good on the outside. (This is of course what Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his day for.) Do you know what the good news is? God’s love is for everyone, not just the pious! Jesus said that he came for the sick, not the well, and indeed he spent much time with prostitutes, thieves (which is basically what the tax collectors were), sinners, and basically the rest of your everyday working average people.
To me, the idea of the christian life isn’t to be perfect, and not sin. It’s about trying to walk in the right direction, to become more whole, to become more fully human, more fully alive, and to love. It’s also been said that god hates sin, and can’t stand it, etc. The impression I guess I’ve always had is that he had a (possibly somewhat arbitrary) list made up of what was wrong, and he couldn’t have anything to do with it, or look at it or whatever, as if he’d start to burn or melt if he did. The thing is of course if you believe this, and you’ve sinned, you think that God can’t love you.
I think I’ve begun to understand love more over the past couple of years. I think God has tried to communicate this, by how we are referred to as his children, and he wishes us to refer to him as “Father” (in the Lord’s prayer). If you can imagine someone you love—if they wrong you, yes you may be hurt but you don’t hate them (not at first at least, of course human love has limits). On the other side, if they do even a small thing to show that they care about you, it would bring you joy. Beyond this, if you see them doing something that hurts them, it would hurt you as well and you would hate that they are doing it. I think that it’s the same with God. I think that he hate sin for no other reason than he understands how much it hurts us. And I believe that he loves us even despite our sins, and is always made happy by even the small things we do when we turn towards him.
A while ago I started thinking about our spirit, and made the connection between that and related words, such as what is meant by spirited, or even showing spirit (such as having team spirit). It shows sign of excitement, of life. It’s a bit hard to describe, so I hope you’ll be able to follow me. Basically, the connection I made is that our life is in our spirit. When we don’t take care of our spirit—when we do things that are spiritually harmful, it effectively kills our spirit. We feel terrible and hopeless, and in the worse cases, we are essentially dead even though physically alive. On the other hand, if we tend to our spirit, and do things more spiritually healthy, we feel better, and at least able to hang on and survive the trials of life. “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” as the Paul put in his second letter to the Corinthians.
Another way of looking at it is this. When we are spiritually alive, we are being more truly who we really are. There is less shame, for we understand we are loved by God. Therefore we are free to be ourselves. All of the beauty that God created in us, all our good qualities, come through, and we are able to love and be loved. But when our spirit is dying, we want to hide. We become more empty, and self focused in trying to numb and fill our emptiness. We start becoming a different person, someone who is not who we truly are, and whose characteristics that God intended to make us beautiful aren’t able to some through. This other person isn’t able to truly love or be loved.