I get tired of people telling me to be a better Christian.
I was watching an old episode of Seinfeld the other day and the gang was talking about going to funerals. Jerry hated going because it always made him feel like he ought to do more with his life, but then—when he tried—he couldn’t figure out what more he could be doing. I know… It was a Seinfeld reference, you were expecting a punch-line. But the joke part is kind of on us.
I wish every one of us could experience the thrill of something akin to climbing Everest—or whatever exciting thing you and I believe is going to give our life some final kind of extra meaning. Because it’s worth it to feel the exhilaration of finishing something spectacular and then quickly realizing that it didn’t add poop to your worth. The mountain won’t remember you. It won’t give one fudge about the strips of skin or drops of blood you left on its face. It’ll just keep on mountain-ing, not caring that you climbed it. And you’ll be busy looking for the next thing.
But that’s not bad news. It’s good news.
Think about every single thing that you crave. Every well-formed body you wish to experience, all the cookies, drink or illicit substances you want to stuff into your body. That new car, the bigger house. They’re never enough. As soon as the experience of having them is done, and the initial elation is over, you’re searching for that next thing. The betterthing.
Nothing completely satisfies.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that we can stop our frantic search for better.
What’s generally meant by being a better Christian is meeting the useless expectations others have duct-taped onto the Christian faith. Don’t watch those movies. Don’t read those books. Don’t listen to that music. Don’t go there, do that or touch that. I mean, don’t be an idiot, but don’t believe the lie that something is useless unless some religious nut condones it who thinks he knows how to live the Christian life better than you. (Col. 2:20-23)
A big part of why we have these rules—that are more preference than perfection—is because we want our faith to be about us.
Sometimes, when a community is raising money for something, they’ll put up a big sign with a thermometer on it, showing how much money has been raised towards the goal. That’s how most of us picture the Christian faith. Perfection is just hanging out at the top, waiting for us to get there. When we feel like we’re doing really well, we proudly show our thermometers to others with the insinuation that they should be more like us. When we’re aware of our failure to even come close to perfection we become discouraged and ashamed.
Perfection isn’t a scale, it’s a state of being.
You don’t get closer to it. You either are perfect or you are not. It’s not something you achieve every once in a while. Perfection has to be maintained non-stop. (Jas. 2:10)
So, you’ve got two choices in the religion game. You can follow the Law (which leads to death—2 Cor 3:6) or you can accept God’s unconditional acceptance.
What I’m saying is that you can’t do it. You can’t become a better Christian. Although, counter-intuitively, in living a life of trust, walking by faith, you will start to look more like God because of His Spirit.
Besides, perfection was given to us because of Jesus. Now, getting better isn’t the main point at all. It’s having a relationship with the Father who ceaselessly sought you out.