Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’ll act like a Child of God

I used to frequent this particular site online where I could read and download information on a television show I enjoyed. It took me a little while to understand that there was a code of conduct expected among the users of the site, and the site owners had no qualms about banning users if they got out of line. I almost wonder if it were a joke at times because of the number of users they would ban. They actually kept a log where everyone could see who they banned by IP address and the reasons why. As you can imagine, people pleasing me did everything in my power to never be on their bad side.

Have you ever been in that situation where you have a code of conduct you need to obey or else face consequences. Some consequences are more dire than not being able to access a website. Depending on where you are, it could be demerits from a college, punishment from a boss, and so on and so forth. It’s true that sometimes codes of conduct are biased or full of prejudice or impossible to keep, but regardless of your opinion on the validity of that code of conduct, if you break it, that means you’re not a very good representative of that establishment.

R0C7A5M4WB_1440x960Today’s verses are Matthew 5:43-48.

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

This is one of those passages I’ve heard over and over and over again, to the point where I skim over it. But I saw something this time around that I hadn’t noticed before. Jesus says that by loving our enemies and praying for the people who persecute us, we will be acting as true children of God.

Whoa. Back that up. Think about that.

I’m a child of God. I believe in Jesus. I’ve welcomed Him into my heart and my life, and I strive every day to live for Him and Him alone. But you know what? I get angry at people who hate me. And I sure don’t pray for people who persecute me. So if what Jesus is saying here is true (and it always is), I can be a Christian but not be acting as a child of God.

Ouch.

But then, is it important to act like a child of God? Can’t I just say I’m a Christian and go about living life however I want? I guess you can, in theory. But what’s the point? Why would you claim to be a Christian if you aren’t going to live like one?

Saying you’re a Christian is easy. Living like a child of God is one of the hardest choices you’ll ever make. It’s easy to love people who are kind to you. And people who do nice things for you? Loving them is effortless. But what about the people who call you names? What about the people who go out of their way to say hateful things to you and about you, to your face or at your back? What about people who hurt you or who hurt the people you love? Loving those people isn’t just hard–it’s practically impossible.

Again, you can say you love them all day long, but love isn’t just saying a word. Love is doing. Love is action. Love is doing something kind in return for the cruelty your enemy does against you.

Jesus put such an emphasis on this because it goes completely against human nature, but this is a picture of what it means to live and act like a Child of God. It’s not just a title. It’s a lifestyle. And it takes strength only God can give. It takes supernatural love. So don’t hesitate to ask for it, because you’re not born with it.

If you want to be more than just a Christian, with Jesus’ help, you can live like a Child of God. Look for opportunities to be kind to people who hate you. Look for the chance to do good to people who do evil to you. Loving people who love you is nice, but loving people who hate you? That’s legendary.

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Little shrimp boat shot from the the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Even pirates have a code

I enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I can’t tell you which one of the four (soon to be five) that I like best because they’re all a ton of fun in their own right, and I’m not sure why that is. There’s just something fun about dressing up like pirates and sword fighting to epic musical scores. Not sure where the allure in that lies, but it’s there.

If you haven’t seen the movies, maybe you’d think the draw would be the fact that pirates have no rules. They can pretty much do whatever they want. And people who can do whatever they want have to be happy, right? That’s bound to be the way to find true joy is to be free from boundaries, free from ethics, free from all the traditional dos and don’ts of civilized society. But what I find interesting is that even bad, scary pirates from those movies have a code of conduct they keep to. True, they’re more like guidelines than actual rules, but it’s still a set code of how they’re supposed to behave, how they’re supposed to treat each other, and how they’re supposed to treat non-pirates.

So if even pirates have a code, wouldn’t it make sense for us to have one too?

 

Little shrimp boat shot from the the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Little shrimp boat shot from the the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Philippians 1:27.

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

I’m not sure why this is difficult, but I have my suspicions. Throughout the Bible, God says over and over again that believers are supposed to love each other and stand together and in that way we’ll show people who don’t believe that we’re different. We have an enemy in the world, who will stop at nothing to see us fail, and he wants nothing more than to take as many people down with him. So his goal is to tear us apart, set us at each other’s throats, and make us fight and split and break our relationships with each other. So instead of seeing the unified Body of Christ, all the world sees is fractured, squabbling factions of Bible thumpers who can’t agree on translations or what kinds of clothing we’re allowed to wear.

I’m bad at this. Because I just want people to read the Bible. I want Christians to stop making up their own rules, and I tend to react emotionally when faced with a believer who has fallen for the lies of legalism. But the truth is this: We are at a place in history right now where the Church needs to stand together more than ever before. We’re coming down to the end here, folks. There’s not much time left, and the last thing we need to be doing is fighting over denominational traditions.

If we agree on something, we need to focus on that. It’s all too easy to focus on where we don’t agree, but that doesn’t help us stand together, united with one spirit and one purpose like Paul beseeched the Church of Philippi to be.

What does it mean to be a citizen of heaven? Well, if you believe in Christ and if you’re one of His followers, you’re already a citizen of heaven. But just because you’re a citizen of heaven doesn’t mean you’re already living like one. I know people who are citizens of America who don’t live like Americans. So what does it mean to be a citizen of heaven? Personally, I think he’s talking about getting along. And that’s not something the Church does very well anymore.

Having a relationship with Christ is freedom. That’s true. There are no rules we are required to follow. There are no standards that we have to meet in order to be worthy. But part of being a Christian is living like one, and while there are no requirements for worthiness, there is a code of conduct that a Christ-follower should submit to. And part of that is loving each other and finding common ground. And if the only common ground you can find is that you both believe that Christ died for your sins and that’s how you get eternal life, stand there. If nothing else, you are brothers or you are sisters in that. That’s the most important point, and if you agree on that, everything else is insignificant. Or at least, it should be.

Living a happy life isn’t a life without rules or boundaries. Actually, a life without rules and boundaries is the fastest way to be unhappy. We all have to know where the line is drawn. And standing together for the faith is a line.

So today, remember that if you belong to Christ, you need to be living like one of heaven’s citizens, which means you need to be getting along with your neighbors. Who knows? That old-fashioned religious person who you just can’t stop fighting with might end up in the mansion next door to you through all of eternity. So you’d better figure out how to get along now rather than later.