If you have grown up in the Church, the way I did, there is a good chance that you have this erroneous opinion that, as a Christian you are somehow “better” than your non-church friends. Not in an outward pushy way really, just that you know the truth, and because of Christ, you’re just a bit more “holy” than others.
I’ve heard it said, in Church, that we should “be an example of how one should live their life, to the unsaved world around us.” This is a great sentiment and is probably true, but the reality of the situation is that we are not better than our non-church going friends.
This kind of teaching will only drive people away from Christ, because it is not possible, you will eventually fail, and the more times you fail at being good, the more frustrated you will get, until you eventually give up.
The divorce rate in the church going community is the same as in the rest of the population. Usually, when this statistic is quoted it is followed up with something like “shame on you, you should be trying harder”.
And again, that’s probably also true, but let’s think about it this way. If the divorce rate was better in the church going community, what would we immediately do? We would say “look at us, we are better than the rest of you” don’t deny it, that’s exactly what most of the church going community would do.
If we were better than the rest of society, we would use that to bring glory to ourselves, this is human nature.
The only thing we have that the rest of society does not, is the Love of Christ. That’s the only thing we have that makes us different. The only thing we can be better at, is showing the Love of Christ to others.
So please stop telling people (especially our youth) that they should be trying harder to please God. Tell them instead, to revel in God’s love and acceptance and to show God’s love and acceptance to those around them.
We are to be a “light unto this world”, my belief is the “light” is Gods Love, not our goodness. I think people assume that the “light” is somehow our righteousness and good deeds. Your good deeds are the result of showing Gods love to others. But we are told that our “good deed” are like filthy rags to God. So how can our good deeds be a light to the world and filthy rags to God?
God’s love often manifests it’s self in good deeds, but the deeds are not the real light. God’s love is the light, your good deeds are the visible result of showing God’s love. So focus on the love, not your deeds. It’s a difference in attitude. Instead of thinking you need to do good deeds to earn God’s approval, you should be thinking, how do I show God’s love and acceptance to others, the good deeds will follow.
Show God’s love to the unsaved world. Stop trying to change the world with your good deeds, that’s exhausting, and also not possible. But God’s love shown through His people has the power to change people’s lives.
One quick clarification:
There are Christians who are “better” than others. They don’t smoke, they don’t drink, they have made fairly decent decisions in their lives, they have good kids, they have good spouses, and good jobs. But they cannot claim their situation is because God has blessed them for being “good”. Because: You can find Buddhists who are in the same situation, you can find Muslims, you can even find atheists that fit that mold. So if you’re a Christian who “has got it all together”, you are most at risk of falling into this “works” based self righteousness.
So again, if you must work on something to try to improve yourself, work on showing God’s love to all people. If you focus on Christ and His love, the rest of your self improvement goals will take care of themselves.