I love the Church. I have given my life to the Church. I believe in the Church because I believe the King reigns over everything. There is a lot to be praised and celebrated when it comes to the Church and Christian culture.
There is another side though. We have bought some lies. These lies are hurting us, crippling us. If we, as the Church, are going to become the image of God in the world, there are lies we must drop. Here are a few of the lies many Christians have bought into that are crippling us.
1. Some Sins are Worse Than Others.
This is plaguing our church culture. Here’s why. It creates only two types of people. Group one: those that have not committed the “bad” sins. They have avoided the worst of the worst, so they tend to judge those that have not. Group two: those that have committed the “bad” sins. They’re made to believe that once their virginity is gone or they drank too much, God is really mad at them. The stares and judgment from group one tends be more direct and apparent. Eventually, most in group two come to the realization they are just “not good enough.”
It’s true that some sins carry with them greater consequences. Murder somebody and you get jail time, gossip about your roommate and you get nothing. Both are sins. One has greater consequences. But this idea that avoiding a particular group of sins makes you more awesome than the group that has not is utterly ridiculous. We are all sinners.
It is time for Christians to stop ranking sins. The Cross is for every person. Let’s treat people this way.
2. God is Not OK With Doubt and Anger.
In a way, the logic for this mindset makes sense. It is disrespectful to yell at our earthly father and doubt his ways, so it must be the same (and more so) with God. But this idea discounts most of Psalms, where the psalmists write clearly of their doubt and anger with God.
Listen, God is all powerful. His love for you is so deep He sent His son to give you life. He can handle some doubt and anger. He knows this life is hard. He knows we are limited.
If you are reading this and have doubts about God, welcome to the club. We’ve all struggled with doubt, but doubt is an opportunity to draw near to God, not run from Him.
3. God’s Love for Me is Determined by My Behavior.
The problem here is that we think too highly of ourselves. We think we can control our behavior and be “good” and then God will love us.
But I suck at living up to God’s standard. Even on my most awesome day, I still end up light years short of God’s standard.
You are a child of God for one reason: What Jesus did for you. It’s not about you. You can’t earn God’s love. You can’t earn God’s favor. You are driving down an exhausting road. Take the next exit and get off!
You are awesome because of God. When you really suck at life, praise God. His love for you hasn’t changed. When you knock it out of the park, praise God. His love for you hasn’t changed.
4. We Should Never ‘Water Down’ the Message.
All right, some of you are ready to write me off. Hear me out.
I am not interested in changing the message. The message must stay the same. It is the message of Jesus that transforms lives. It is of first importance (I Cor. 15:1-3). I am interested in changing the delivery of the message. This idea that we should never alter the message so those who do not know Jesus can comprehend it is ridiculous.
I was talking recently with a guy who did not grow up in church. He has been a Christian for about 20 years now, but he told me, “I struggle to understand the message most Sundays. I don’t speak the language. So, most of the time I just tune out when the sermon starts.”
Translation: Christians often speak a language that is native to us, but foreign to those who have no framework for God. Call it Christianese. Call it whatever. But it is prideful to believe people should constantly reach up to our level.
Yes, we have a standard. Yes, we are called to be holy. But that isn’t the issue here. The issue is making the Gospel clear to everyone. It is equivalent to expecting a toddler to comprehend high school concepts. Ridiculous.
Churches that are bringing non-Christians to Jesus get this. The message is not watered down. It is convicting, and it is powerful. But it is not littered with big Christian words that only locals understand.
5. God Wants Me to Be Happy.
The word “happy” appears six times in the Bible, none of those in reference to God’s intention for your life. This is not a bad thing, though. Happiness is more fleeting than a relationship on The Bachelor.
Right now, I am in a great mood. How quickly can that change? Happiness is almost always tied to the present. If we constantly lived for our current happiness, what a miserable life most of us would have. How many times has something awesome birthed from something not so awesome?
The good news for you and me is that God is much more concerned with lasting qualities such as joy and peace. Those qualities are unaffected by the fragility of life.
An earlier version of this article was posted at frankmatthewpowell.com