I grew up with the belief that sin was kryptonite for the Christian. Sin would lock you in the belly of a whale, or steal all of your power. For years – decades – that was my understanding of the concept. No more. No less. But what about today? How does sin apply to my life…and yours…today?
This week’s question is another great, seemingly simple question: what does it mean to be a good Christian? Much like last week’s question, in my old life, I would have had a quick answer. I was a black and white religious guy with no room for gray areas. But now that messy grace has transformed my life, I can see how much we need to revisit the basics of our faith, not just for the sake of new Christians, but for those of us who continually need to shed the scales from our eyes.
So what does it mean to be a good Christian?
The first question in my brand-new ASK STEVE series comes from a Twitter follower, who simply asked, ‘What is grace?’ What a great question. In my years of religious fervor, that would have been the simplest question in the world to answer. ‘Undeserved favor, of course.’ I knew exactly how to regurgitate Christianese on demand.
But how does the person who has started following Jesus as an adult answer that question? The one who wasn’t raised in church and doesn’t have all the knowledge – or baggage – the rest of us have? What is grace to the newbie?
For years, I believed exactly what Christine Caine’s quote says: God can do in a second what you have been unable to do alone for years. But it only led me away from Christ.
It seems that sucky days are a universal experience. We can’t survive on an island. Isolation is miserable, especially for someone who struggles with depression or anxiety or self-esteem issues. Finding the guts to say, “Today sucks. Can we talk?” sometimes changes everything.
I hate when I feel this way. I hate the semi-permanent knot in the back of my throat, the avoiding eye contact with co-workers and the constant urge to go home. But the feelings persist. I hate the shame that comes along with it, whispering, “What a loser. Get your shit together. What’s wrong with you?” I hate the shame that comes from years of being raised as a religious kid, the lies that tell me I’m not a real Christian or I wouldn’t have these struggles.
But then I remember the words our pastor spoke Sunday…
My faith matters to me. I read the Bible. I attend church. I pray when something is weighing heavily on me. But while I used to find my identity only in the label of “Christian” or in the name recognition of my local church, I’ve realized people care much more about whether I am kind than whether I have faith.
Mental health and faith can feel like two separate worlds. For many people, they look at life as either spiritual or physical/mental. Mixing the two is like trying to mix steak and Kraft Dinner. They just don’t seem to fit. But this is not healthy, because a healthy mind is a healthy soul. Check out this post for 7 ways faith can help you with the weight of living.