When I was in college, I became acquainted with this one particular girl. If you directly asked her, she’d tell you she was Christian, but I noticed some questionable things about her. She was nice, energetic, a decent person. She could make anyone laugh and always had a story to tell. Though she would have called herself a Christian, I never once saw her go to church in all the time I knew her in college. She partied, drank, and lived her life looking pretty much like every other typical college student. A couple of times, I saw her temper flare up at different people. I mean, like an all out screaming, cussing, belittling fight. I think during her freshman year she joined a bible study, but left it when the leader of it gently asked her about her unchaste relationship with her boyfriend. She seemed sort of lost, like she was searching for something or maybe like she had some deep unresolved issues that kept boiling to the surface.
I know I sound like I’m being completely judgmental of this poor girl, but this poor girl was me. If you would have asked me in my college days if I was a Christian, I would have answered yes. Ten minutes later, however, you could have heard me take the Lord’s name in vain. I cussed. I never went to church unless I was home for a weekend and then it was pretty hit or miss. I’m pretty sure my bible was used like a coaster. My moral compass pointed towards whatever made me feel good whether it was right or not. My relationship with Jesus was like the relationship I have with my third cousin once removed on my mother’s side…which is to say, there was no relationship. If I prayed at all, it was maybe to pray that God would keep me safe in the sin I was committing. That’s really embarrassing to write, ya’ll. Really embarrassing, but it’s true. I was so lost in myself that I didn’t even realize that you can’t invite God into your sin and ask Him to bless it.
My life looked no different than a non-believer. By saying that, I don’t mean to say that atheists/agnostics are bad and evil people. I mean to say that you would have been hard pressed to find clues in my life to lead you to believe that I proclaimed myself a follower of Christ. Non-believers don’t live their lives for Christ, because, well, they don’t believe there is a Christ to live for. My life looked like that. I didn’t go to church, I didn’t really pray, my bible had a nice coating of dust on it, and I used God’s name in a terrible way. I was a decent person, I didn’t go around killing people, stealing, kidnapping, or doing other awful crimes, just like most atheists are decent human beings, too.
This is a huge gripe atheists have about Christians: We say we love Jesus, but we don’t really live like we do. While it is unfair for atheists to expect perfection from every Christian, they do have a point. On a whole, as Christians, we don’t live our lives any differently.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t go to church because I wanted to sleep in. Or there was a football game on. Or I was just completely apathetic to giving one hour to the One who had poured out everything for me.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t set aside time for prayer, because my relationship with Christ just wasn’t a priority.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t read my bible because I got the basic gist of it and there was a new Stephen King thriller out.
If I’m being honest, I followed the secular culture because I lacked the courage and integrity to live my Christian faith with conviction. I weakly followed the ways of the world, because it was easy and nobody gave me any grief about it.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t look like a Christian, because while I believed in Christ, I didn’t love Him. It pains me to say that, but I didn’t. When we truly love someone we pour ourselves into that person. We want to talk about them, know them, be near them and sacrifice for them. I didn’t do any of that for Christ.
Through God’s grace, my life radically changed. I attribute it to the Eucharist and the Sacraments. I see everyday as a journey, a journey to try and live a life for Christ. It’s not easy, but I find it so much more fulfilling. My simple belief in Christ has now turned into a love for Him. My love for Him has opened my eyes to the way I was living my life. I know this side of Heaven, I will never be perfect. I know that I will mess up and fall. The difference now is that I want to show God I love Him. I want to worship Him in church and at home, I want to read His word, I want to make sacrificial decisions that cut against the grain of society, I want to get up every morning and talk with Him in prayer…I just want to be close.
I think authentic, true love does radically change us. It’s a process as we shed different parts of ourselves that are holding us back from being who we are truly meant to be. Early in my life, I wasn’t shedding anything about myself. I wasn’t allowing my belief in Christ to transform me. My will was all that mattered.
I want my life to look different than a non-believer. It should, shouldn’t it? I mean, if I proclaim Christ than my life should have a different quality about it. Our lives, as Christians, are to be a witness to Christ and His love and I simply can’t do that if I refuse to even give Christ a passing thought throughout the day. In our country, our Christianity has become anything goes. “You don’t need to go to church, you don’t need to seriously think about the entertainment you indulge in, you can go along with whatever the secular culture deems fine. Jesus loves you, man, and that’s all that matters.”
Yes, Jesus does love us, each and every one of us. I’ve lived my life as a Christian who just believes in God and, now, I’m trying my hardest to live my life as a Christian who loves God. There is a significant difference. In my past, the Christianity I subscribed to asked nothing of me, didn’t require any sacrifice on my part, challenged me in no way, and, honestly, looked like the life of one who doesn’t follow Christ. Today, the Christianity I immerse myself in draws me out of myself, opens me up to loving in a more deep and profound way, and challenges me daily to live God’s will, not my own. I feel different. I hope I seem different. I say this in all humility, because I recognize that if there is a difference, it’s because of God working through me. If there is any difference, it’s because I stopped blocking God’s grace.
I want to encourage all Christians to dive deep. One thing I realized is that living a “Christian in name only” way of life was hallow and uninspiring. Our lives should be inspiring; not for the sake of ourselves, but for God’s. I pray that we all find the courage to live a life that makes non-believers wonder and eventually go, “I want what she has.” What we have, if we are doing it right, is the divine life living in us and hopefully it draws others in.