I grew up in a church that led their spiritual conversation by giving you rules—what you can’t do as a Christian. There was a lot for this teen girl in northern Indiana. We weren’t supposed to dance, play cards, wear miniskirts, smoke, drink, or cuss. And soon to make the list—drugs, because they were relatively new to the American culture. It was a season of darkness, both in the church and the culture that surrounded it.
So, every weekend, I parked the rules at the door as I left my home to be with my friends. My mother’s Bible verse of choice for me as I walked out the door, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” When putting my key in the ignition of my Ford Galaxy, my mumbling response was, “Then I’m going to make those sins count.”
Are You Using Your Head or Your Heart?
In those years, there seemed to be so much emphasis on what you should or should not do, not whom you should love. It’s not that the Bible wasn’t inserted into all conversations. It was. Bible drills and memorization were all part of my Christian education. While I am sure many didn’t mean it to be, what was emphasized was head, not heart.
It was years later that I learned what faith should look like. After walking away from all I was taught, I clawed my way back through periods of spiritual immaturity to spiritual arrogance and finally to an understanding that faith was not based on rules. It was not knowledge. Our faith in Jesus is founded and lived on knowing and loving Him.
Here I am today in my spiritual journey realizing the world once again feels dark. The pain and anger are palpable. The division is vast. That is not how God designed us nor how He wants us to live. There must be hope offered, and it is on us to offer it. It is ours to affect the communities in which we live. Ours to offer something new, yet old and real. But not in the way we often do.
When we focus on the peripheral, we lose our place in culture. The light we are called to demonstrate becomes dim, and the salt we should be is diluted. When we think we hold back sin and bring light to the darkness by making rules or spouting faith platitudes, it does exactly the opposite. It’s when we live in and show the love of Christ that we are truly light and salt.
Do we deny God’s standards? Do we ignore the text in the multitude of memorized and often spouted verses? Of course not. They are there to guide us, lead us into surrender and admission of our sins, and accept the one covering all sins.
But we must focus first and always on relationships—with Christ and others. When the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the time) asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus’ answer was this: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
How To Make God Proud when We Disagree
Loving the Lord means seeking to live in a way that honors Him. But not because there are rules to follow but because there is a love that wants to please, to make the God who died for us smile in approval. We become like a child beaming with delight when told they did well by their mother or father saying, “good job, I’m proud of you. “It is the same with our heavenly Father.
What makes Him proud of us, you wonder? It starts with our unconditional love for others. It’s how he loved us and loves us still. There is no barrier between us and the open door of a loving God. He seeks us, He faithfully draws us exactly as we are without demands or expectations. He is only seeking a relationship for us to give Him our hearts.
Should we not do the same for all others? Are we to only love those we are comfortable with, who seem more like us culturally or philosophically? He didn’t. Neither should we.
What makes Him proud of us, you wonder? It starts with our unconditional love for others.
We spend so much time looking at the sin, not the person lost in it. During the years I was running as far from my faith as I could, I was tired of having my sins pointed out. I wished there was someone who saw me. The defiant teen who, high one night in the middle of a religious conversation, stated, “Jesus is the only answer.” Not because I lived it but because my heart knew the truth even if I didn’t want to be a part of the “club” of rules.
Look to Love
If we look at this world of darkness doing nothing but fighting individual sins, we do not love those living under its control. Nor are we remembering we are sinners as well. No different than those we may unreasonably and mistakenly feel better than. We must remember that the only way to dimmish the darkness is to be light. The only way to preserve truth is to be salt. The only way to draw others is to be as He is.
May we truly live and love as our Savior: not being afraid of those who are not like Him. Because that’s where we find those who hurt, and the broken hearts without hope. We found hope; shouldn’t they, too? As your relationship with Him grows, so will your relationship with others. They need us. Not to accuse and offer rules but to build relationships. It is then and only then that the darkness will dispel.
Not sure how to raise your kids to communicate with those who disagree with them? Dr. Jim Denison shares his advice here: How Do I Raise My Kids when the Culture and Bible Collide? with Dr. Jim Denison – 177