This Christian walk stuff is not easy. Granted, that’s not the most original thought I’ve ever had, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of people who assume that Christianity is easy, but sometimes it strikes me just how difficult of a path this can be. I’m not even talking about the do and don’t lists. In fact, the commandments can be the easy part. If I’m on a strict diet, I don’t eat cake, pretty simple. But if I’m just “watching what I eat”, if it’s a “lifestyle”, do I eat cake? If so, how much? It’s the Christian life compromised that’s impossibly difficult and, as my dieter friends can relate to, once you take that first bite of cake it’s just a little bit harder not to have french fries the next time.
But, really, “Christian life compromised” isn’t the right term, although, when one isn’t careful it does seem to be the end result. I guess what I mean to say is, it’s relatively easy to be a Christian and to walk roads soundly investigated, approved and maintained by the traditional church. It isn’t difficult to live life uncompromised on Sunday morning or at a gathering of like minded friends and family. It isn’t hard to stand your ground when no one is challenging you, or tempting you. On a diet, following a regimented menu laid out for you by a more studied individual isn’t very tough, in the short term. It’s when you decide to rework your very lifestyle to embody health and fitness in a way that’s real and lasting for you that challenges come.
Legalism can be easier to live in than grace. I think it’s why we’re drawn there. We just feel better when someone is telling us what to do, like if we follow all the rules, we know we’re getting it right. Religion based in fear. Pharisees.
I live a lot of my life outside what the church considers comfortable confines. The local pub (a community gathering spot), the homes of non-christian friends, music festivals; many of the places where I most feel at home, and the most free to be myself, are outside of the traditional black and white territory of the church. It can be hard, sometimes, to overcome mindsets taught to me as a child by strict Christian parents, even in myself. I find myself arguing the propriety of my choices, comparing them to those of my other Christian friends, and wondering if I’ve completely lost my way and the Holy Spirit forgot to tell me. Should the topic come up, of my friendships and hangouts, I find myself justifying my beliefs to an inquisitive, concerned or sometimes accusing church family member. Mostly, though, I just sort of keep quiet about it, worried I’ll be thought of as less of a Christian, that, in their concern for me and out of homage to the tradition of rules and clearly defined right and wrong, I’ll be ousted from ministry and deemed among the lost.
Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of friends who are Christians, and I love them and time with them, too. I just haven’t limited myself to only that and only there. There’s a lot of reasons and, to be honest, evangelism wasn’t originally one of them. But, as I’ve prayed through these struggles, what seems clear to me is this: Jesus hung out with some pretty shady characters, and He wasn’t preaching or handing out tracts or condemning choices and lifestyles, sometimes he was just eating dinner. I think repentance is born of relationship. I think it’s unwise to overlook the importance of being an “out-Christian” in a secular world, a position that requires us to actually step foot into the secular world. I believe that I’m laying a foundation for some of the people I meet and interact with, that I’m planting a seed that will one day be harvested.
But sometimes, I wish I didn’t feel so alone while I was doing it. I wish that I could go to my church and share the particular difficulties that come from living for Christ while in relationship with a world who isn’t. We all sin and all sins are equal in God’s eyes but, truth be told, they’re not in the eyes of the church; and in an environment so readily given to judgment, it isn’t easy, or even wise, to share the struggles unique to a life outside of the box.
Which brings me back to my original point. This stuff isn’t easy. There’s a whole lot to figure out, a whole lot of two steps forward and one step back. There is, at the end of the day, a whole lot of growth.
And maybe that’s what makes it all worthwhile. Lonely, perhaps, a little lacking in the usable advice department, but worth it.