Make Christianity Hard Again

I grew up in a very interesting strain of Christianity. Now, I don’t know if this was the explicit teaching of my church or just what I felt, but it seemed like the overall message of a Christian’s duty was, “don’t sin, attend church, read your Bible, and tell others about Jesus.”

Now, all of those are incredibly important things. But I think what tended to happen was telling people about Jesus was paralyzingly scary, mostly because most of us didn’t know where to begin. (Do you hand them a tract? ask them if they know where they will go when they die? Just be kind around them until they ask you about your faith?) Church became routine, the Bible became something to know, and the sins we were supposed to avoid ended up being relegated to avoiding “big sins” (a category in which I tended to move the goalposts a lot).

But when you treat Christianity like that, it is actually not very difficult. Just be a generally nice person. But the real problem with this type of Christianity is that it becomes eye-wateringly boring. You don’t actually have too much to do. Maybe you block out your Sunday mornings and your Wednesday nights. But the rest of your life you functionally live like a fairly moral non-christian.

So, my hunch is that most people with this vision of Christianity are not disengaged because it is really difficult. Rather, people disengage because this version of Christianity seems boring. Now it might seem like the solution to this is to try to make Christianity fun. But I think that is going in the wrong direction. I think that the right move is to make Christianity hard.

There is something about a challenge that causes people to rise to it. There is something about difficulty that pumps blood through your veins. If a group of people are in a boring seminar, everyone wants to be the first to leave. If the same group are in a boot camp, no one wants to be the first to leave.

And the ironic part is that Christianity is difficult. The way of Jesus is the way of the cross. So don’t talk about it like we just need to be nice people. Here are three commands that have challenged me, with practical trails we can follow.

1. Repentance- seeing where you did not measure up to God’s commands, asking forgiveness, and turning from your sins. Both in actions and in thought. Did I think of myself more highly than someone else? Did I lust? Did talk badly about someone without addressing the issue with them first?

And repentance is not only recognizing sin, but it is also change. Do I confess these sins to another Christian? Do I have people checking on whether I’m sinning in these same patterns?

2. Gospel proclamation- Inviting those who do not trust in Jesus to trust in him for the forgiveness of their sins. Do I have any friends who are not Christians? Do I know the gospel well enough to articulate it in a way that it is comprehensible? Can I articulate how the gospel affects different aspects of my life- my work, my marriage, my leisure, my interests?

3. Gospel demonstration- Addressing the felt needs of the community as we strive to do good to those both in and outside of the household of faith. Do we know people well enough to actually know when they have a need? How can I volunteer at a local school, help a couple struggling in their marriage, give company and help to the elderly?

G.K. Chesterton once said that “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” It is only in challenging our people and ourselves that they will find that they cannot do these things. And that will cause them to run to Jesus. And paradoxically, the more that they run to Jesus, the more they will find that they are able to do these things.

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