There is nowhere in the Bible that tells us Christianity is going to be a comfortable, stable life. I’ve heard others speak on how deceptive our society’s obsession with individualism and the “American Dream” can be, and I’ve complained myself about how it has crept into our churches and affected our mindsets. And yet, I still find myself guilty of it. It seems like the general consensus on what it means to be “a good Christian” today basically includes:

  • regular church attendance
  • no sex outside of marriage 
  • have obedient, well-behaved children
  • don’t cuss
  • don’t drink
  • don’t do drugs
  • make financial donations to church and/or charitable causes
  • manage your finances so you don’t become a “drain on society”
  • be “nice” (i.e. unoffensive)

When you read the Bible, this view of Christianity is far too narrow. Yes, we should go to church and strive to live a morally pure life, but we are also told to:

  • love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39)
  • love our enemies (Luke 6:27-35)
  • be hospitable (1 Peter 4:9)
  • pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • be diligent in our pursuit of understanding the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • share the gospel with others and be “like a city set on a hill” with our example (Matthew 5:14-16)
  • help the poor (Proverbs 29:7)
  • don’t worry about money, food, or possessions (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • put the needs of others ahead of our own needs (1 Corinthians 10:24-33)
  • consider others more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4)
  • give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • be humble (James 4:10)
  • become changed to think spiritually instead of thinking like the rest of the world (Romans 12:1-2)
  • Speak words of life rather than idle words or slander (Matthew 12:35-37)
  • Give up our own lives for Christ (Matthew 16:24-26)

These are just some examples and not an exhaustive list, but the point is that for some reason the verses at the top seem to be given more weight in today’s Christian circles than those at the bottom. I’m not sure when Christianity was reduced from a radical change in lifestyle and attitude to a checklist of “what not to do.” I’m not saying that the first list is wrong in itself, but I do think it is wrong if that’s the only way we attempt to conform to Christ. That is an incomplete and honestly, lukewarm version of Christianity.

Jesus repeatedly tells his followers to forsake the things of the world and follow Him. He makes it clear that following Him will require sacrifice and we may be ostracized or treated like we’re crazy. I don’t believe he’s referring there to ridicule due to how righteous or morally superior we are compared to the world – I think he means the ridicule that comes from truly sacrificing and loving like Christ. Loving people who would hurt us, helping people who don’t appreciate it, giving to the point that we are actually sacrificing our own desires in order to help others, and putting our complete faith in God instead of trying to plan, manage, and control every detail of our lives. Things that look crazy to the world, but look like submission to God.

I am challenging myself to say no to that lazy lifestyle that I’ve accepted in the past. Do I honestly think unbelievers are glorifying God because I opted out of that raunchy movie or refrained from using profane words when provoked? Is that really the best “light to the world” I can be? If not, what would help to inspire unbelievers to glorify God? What would cause them to think, “You know, Jesus really is something special and I need to learn more about him!”? This is something that I need to think about more, and I pray that I can be more successful than I was in the past.

I pray that when I see Jesus on judgement day, he will know me and not tell me that my life was just an empty show. I pray that I will never be satisfied with a lukewarm faith that makes Christ spit me out of his mouth with disgust. So that is my main resolution as I go into this new year: I want to resist the temptation to put on an outward show of righteousness while still living a selfish life – to truly appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus on a daily basis and live accordingly.