Summary: A look at the lifestyle of the Christian
The story goes that: “A young soldier and his commanding officer got on a train together. The only available seats were across from an attractive young woman who was traveling with her grandmother. As they engaged in pleasant conversation, the soldier and the young woman kept eyeing one another; the attraction was obviously mutual. Suddenly the train went into a tunnel and the car became pitch black. Immediately two sounds were heard: the ‘smack’ of a kiss, and the ‘whack’ of a slap across the face. The grandmother thought ‘I can’t believe he kissed my granddaughter, but I’m glad she gave him the slap he deserved.’ The commanding officer thought, ‘I don’t blame the boy for kissing the girl, but it’s a shame that she missed his face and hit me instead.’ The young girl thought, ‘I’m glad he kissed me, but I wish my grandmother hadn’t slapped him for doing it.’ And as the train broke into the sunlight, the soldier could not wipe the smile off his face. He had just seized the opportunity to kiss a pretty girl and slap his commanding officer and had gotten away with both!”
It’s brilliant, isn’t it? You break all the rules and you come out of it smelling like a rose. It would be something if it really worked like that, wouldn’t it? I think the way things usually work, the soldier would have stumbled and kissed the grandmother in the dark, and hit the officer just as the light came back into the train. The girl would have said, “Why did he kiss my grandmother and not me? He must be some kind of perv!”, and slapped the soldier. But, like the soldier, we still keep hoping that can really get by with something. We want to have our sins forgiven, but we don’t want to stop our sinning. We want Jesus to be our loving Savior, but we don’t want him as our Sovereign Lord. We want to be thought of as a good soldier, while doing things in the dark that are not what we should be doing.
I think that there are many Christians who are not really living the life, because they are not willing to wholeheartedly follow Jesus, especially if things get difficult. Part of the problem is that we have a distorted idea of what it means to live the Christian life. For many, it is only about being forgiven and going to heaven. It is almost as if many Christians think that what they do doesn’t matter. Or if it does matter, God will simply forgive them.
A lot of people live as though the Christian life is only a matter of rules. But it is not about rules, it is about a whole new way of life — not just a new way of acting, but a new way of thinking, a new way of feeling, a new way of seeing the world. It is a new way of living with God and other people. It’s about a new way of treating the people in your family. It’s about a new confidence in life, because you know that this is God’s world and he has not given up on it. Living by rules often keeps us from seeing Christianity as a way of life. I often hear people who are very concerned about the fact that prayer is not allowed in school. I have to admit that I have very little concern over that. What concerns me is that there is no prayer in our homes. I am not so concerned over the fact that Bible reading is not permitted in our schools as I am the fact that there is no Bible reading in our homes. I am not so concerned that the schools are not teaching creationism as I am the fact that we are not engaging our children in spiritual conversation at home. We don’t change the culture by changing its laws. We change the culture by changing people — and it must begin with us. So when you don’t pray with your family or read the Bible together, you have lost your right to complain about it not being done in our schools. Live the life, and don’t expect someone else to do what is your responsibility. Somehow we think the rules we want to impose on others don’t apply to us. The Scripture says, “If you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth — you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” (Romans 2:19-21).
Legalism is so easy to see in others, and not so easy to see in ourselves. We understand it in the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They loved rules, and they were always making new ones. The problem is that they did not just make rules for themselves, they wanted everyone else to follow their rules. Be clear that I am not talking about major moral rules that are from God and clearly outlined in Scripture, I am talking about man-made rules that had very little to do with a person’s relationship with God — although they insisted they did.