I cannot try to be a Christian, it simply won’t work. It will be as effective as a small boy looking soulfully into his mother’s eyes to declare, “I am so sorry, Mommy. I will NEVER DO THAT AGAIN.” Yup. Anyone can see how that’s going to go.
At the beginning of each year I think, like many, of this famous poem:
‘I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night
And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.’
It’s such a beautiful image but here’s the thing. If you want to make it to the dawn, if you want to see the light, you actually have to put your hand into the hand of God. You can’t say “Oh lovely!” and head out into pitch black nonetheless trying to live a Godly life trying to remember what He told you to do. You can’t go it alone and expect to lead the purpose-filled life He created you for and be able to see where you’re going. (If we could do that then we would never have really needed Him to come in the first place, right?)
You have to decide actively to hold His hand if you want this relationship to guide you more brilliantly than light and more certainly than familiarity.
Because if and when your hand is in the hand of God, He is – consequentially – with you all the time. He speaks to you directly and freshly because you’re always with Him. You don’t need to call Him up or dredge up in your memory something that you heard He had said sometime in the past or in a childhood church service. You don’t have to think conceptually “What would Jesus do?” because He’s saying it to you right here, right now, in this day, in this situation, with this person, NOW.
Problems begin when we say we’ve put our hand into the hand of God but have not done and yet still expect to be able to walk His way by ourselves. On our own. Because without Him, that’s what we’re doing. We’re just attempting the Christian life through our own will. And experience tells us that we’ll be about as successful at trying to be a Christian as the little boy at promising his mother he’ll never be naughty again.
And then, going it alone, people who hear us say we’re Christian will wonder why our heart hasn’t changed. Why we’re just as blind to our own faults, just as selfish, just as grasping, just as hurt, just as angry, just as exclusive and excluding as we always were. They will ask why – since we profess to know Jesus – we continue to judge from a position of assumed superiority, whilst slathering it all with a thick religious gloss. They will watch us continue to forgive ourself with rampant extravagance, while letting those who have hurt us languish in a purgatory we have painstakingly built for them in our own heart.
People will look at us and they won’t understand what it means to know Christ, because we’ll be no different from anyone else.
If this is you, give up!! Let this be your New Year’s Resolution for 2015! No one can try to be like Christ. What an utter, utter joke this would be. And those who do are the reason why so much of the criticism hurled at Christianity is so absolutely warranted. Well-meaning people who perhaps were raised with the bible, perhaps go to church and perhaps think the Ten Commandments are a pretty good way to go – are trying to find God’s way on their own, in pitch black without any light themselves while telling all to do the same. They then collide with others floundering in that same darkness but who profess other beliefs and, without exception, the collision is disastrous.
I’ve been chewing on all of this because just before Christmas, a tiny Christian school up the street turned down my two children because I was divorced. They claimed other reasons, but it became clear this was really the problem.
Everyone who heard about it was horrified and disgusted. “How can they be reading the same gospel and think this is loving? Who are they to judge? They didn’t even bother to find out who you are?!!? Are any of them without sin?” Etc etc etc.
Over Christmas, I ignored the rejection. However, as I have thought about it since, my feelings have changed from depression toward compassion.
In Acts, there’s that humiliating conflict for Peter where Paul takes him to task in public for falling under the old way of the Law and refusing to eat with Gentiles. But Peter thought he’d been right. He was earnest in his faith and sincerely committed to following Christ — He just couldn’t see. It was only a revelation in the form of a dream that opened Peter’s eyes to a far broader understanding of what Jesus meant by total freedom and total grace.
So I’m not going to write this tiny school an angry letter, I’m going to pray for revelation with regard to other single moms in the future.
At the park early this morning I thought again about transformation. There had been a sharp frost.
The leaves couldn’t choose to change their frozen state, they were stuck where they were. They needed to be changed by the warmth and light of the sun. And when the sun touched them – and without their even trying – their ice began to melt. The change came from without which changed them within.
And through the revelation of who Jesus actually is, any single one of us can – really – be changed.