(Disclaimer: This is destined, I am sure, to be only the first of many posts on this subject. You are free to agree or disagree and post your comments, but please be courteous.)
Tonight I watched the movie “Kingdom of Heaven,” which deals with the crusades. I was curious to see what side of it they would represent. Instead of going too much into what I really thought of the movie, I’d rather talk about something that sort of struck me as I watched, something that tied in with another topic I’ve been wanting to post about anyway.
In the movie, as in history, of course, you have two armies fighting each other for the same reason: the claim of the Holy Land, and for “God.” While some might argue that the Christian God and the god of Islam are the same, I am not one of those people. But on the side of the “Christians” (and while some Christians were actually portrayed with some integrity, the majority, as usual, were not) there were many who believed that marching on the Saracens under the Cross was God’s will and meant they could not fail. To say otherwise was blasphemy.
It takes more than a Cross to make a Christian.
It takes more than a symbol to make worthy a cause.
It takes more than singing the right songs, reading the bible, staying away from R-rated movies, joining bible studies, going to church every Sunday, not cussing, reading every Max Lucado* book that comes out (but never, ever reading any Harry Potter book!), volunteering, not smoking or drinking, or any other list of “do”s and “don’t”s you can think of.
I’m not sure when exactly I realized this, but it has made a big difference to me. To be a Christian of course involves personal sacrifice, giving up comfort, serving others, and doing the right thing. But we have made those things the standard of Christianity, not the fruit. These things develop naturally out of a relationship with God, not the other way around. Following a list of Do’s and Don’t’s doesn’t necessarily make you closer to God. Just ask the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.
Truthfully, it bothers me that much of Christianity has been reduced to following this list. One of the things that ought to set us apart from every other religion in the world is that we don’t have to work for our salvation. We were given it as a gift, and it is out of gratitude that we serve God. It is out of his overflow of love into our hearts that we help the needy. It is out of respect for Him that we eliminate things in our lives which are not pleasing—and this doesn’t look the same for everyone!!!
Some people he calls at times to give up TV. Others he calls to write for or act in shows on TV which Christians may not even watch because it offends them. Because being a Christian literally means being a follower of Christ, we have to look at it as a journey. We often call our spiritual life our “walk” but then live as though it is a regimen. We all know deep down the cliché, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” But we don’t really live like that because it is hard. It is risky.
I know I’m generalizing. And I keep saying “we.” I’m just reflecting on what I’ve seen so far in my life. It takes more than staying in line to make us like Christ. And it takes more than a bunch of people showing up on Sunday to make a Church.
But more on that later.
*I actually enjoy many of Mr. Lucado's writings, and did not intend to offend anyone by suggesting he is not a thoughtful writer. I do, however, take issue with his uber-popularity among Christians.