This blog is the first in the series “Misconceptions about Christianity.” In this series, I discuss some of the most prominent misconceptions about Biblical Christianity (as opposed to Westernized/Americanized Christianity). For the audio/podcast version of this blog, click here.
Here I will address the first and most foundational misconception about Christianity. It’s a misconception that is at the heart of many other confusions, and I hope this blog will bring clarity to those who have misunderstood Christianity (and the Bible) for so very long.
Christianity is about being a good, moral person, which is achieved by following the rules of the Bible.
Seems right, right? Actually no. Very wrong.
There are two main problem with this statement:
Firstly, no Christian follows the Bible or obeys god as he requires– aka: perfectly.
Most Christians even struggle to read and understand the Bible to begin with; some non-believers know the Bible better than many Christians. And even if these Christians do understand the Scriptures, the more they understand, the more they realize that they daily, hourly, minutely, secondly fall short of its infinitely high standard for holiness; the Apostle Paul teases this out in Romans 7. So if people are constantly falling short of right obedience, then what percentage saves them?
3%? 67%? 99%? No, actually only 100% will do. God requires perfect holiness.
If you think you can obey God perfectly, you actually don’t understand the how incredibly holy God is just yet. We have a problem then, since no person–non-Christian or Christian–can obey perfectly obey God. (Scripture makes this very clear: Psalm 19:12, Romans 3:9-12 & 23, I John 1:8, Revelation 15:4, etc.)
If being a Christian isn’t about how good you are, then what’s it about?
While obedience is a very important facet of being a Christian, isn’t strictly about obedience. Christianity is about having a relationship with God. It’s a lifestyle that flows out of “being made right” with God. As a person comes to know God, and in turn loves Him, this LOVE for God motivates obedience and “morality,” if you will.
Obedience is not at the heart of Christianity; love is at the heart.
Sure, Christianity is technically a “religion” because it fits the bill (a system which attributes worship to a higher power), but the truest part of Christianity is a relationship.
But God has a relationship with people because they are good, right Mary Mad?
Again, wrong. That leads to our next point.
secondly, the Bible is not a book of “how to’s” and rules; the Bible is a story of a sinful people who are loved by a holy god.
The Bible isn’t a book to read in order to learn how to earn God’s favor by being good. The Bible a collection of historical books and letters, that all come together to tell a story about God. A story in which humans bring all the baggage, and God brings all the goodness. Scripture tells a story of a God who created a magnificent, abundant world full of life, and then crowned that creation with humanity, His image bears in this world. He gave this humanity free will, and after these humans decided to turn against God with that free will, they crowned creation with death and destruction. They brought evil into the perfect goodness & holiness of creation.
Since then, everyone has been trying to get back to the Garden of Eden where they enjoy perfect communion with God, which is what humanity was made for. We were made for something bigger, something more perfect and beautiful than ourselves, but unfortunately sin spreads like a disease, and the sin in the Garden contaminated absolutely everything and everyone, causing division between God and humankind, because God cannot be united with evil.
And after everything crumbles in Genesis 3, God makes a promise to save humanity and bring them back into His presence. This promise unfolds in the story of a God who pursues humanity relentlessly. He promises them He will make things right, even though they were the ones who rebelled and sinned against Him. He makes Israel, a people who will showcase God’s goodness to the world, but many of them turn away from Him as well. Plenty of them actually make the grave misunderstanding that the law is about behaviors, instead of it being about the heart. These people turn into the Pharisees, those of the “religious elite.”
And then, God’s promises to make things right comes to fruition, through Himself.
He comes, humbles Himself to humanity, in a tiny, helpless infant. He grows to become a man, who lives a perfectly loving & truthful life, and then dies for a people who didn’t even recognize Him as God. He takes on His own wrath, so that we don’t have to. He trades our sin, and gives us His righteousness. This mind-boggling and stunning act is called our “justification.” And then, He promises to come back for those who believe in Him, and in the meantime, we live out of the light of our salvation, that, in turn, leads to us growing in love, faith, hope, and yes– true obedience. This is called the process of “sanctification.”
So maybe you misunderstood the Bible.
Now is the time to re-image it for what it is: a story about a loving God.
And re-understand God for who He is: loving and kind Father, not an evil task-master.
Dig in yourself, and read it as what it is:
Not a book of rules to follow, but a narrative, a story
that reveals a Creator that is so kind, so gracious, so loving,
that He takes on the death & separation we deserve
so that He can bring us into His embrace and love us forever,
and that motivates us to showcase His love to the rest of the world,
through our “obedience,” or doing what He asks of us.
What a story.
I try to keep these blogs/audio podcasts short for the sake of not overwhelming my readers/listeners with information. Please reach out if you would like to talk about this more or have any questions. It would excite me to no end to discuss this, and there are absolutely no judgements. No question is dumb.