Pretty much everyone either knows that or assumes that. I do believe there are a couple of people who are not so sure. Maybe because I don’t listen to the right kind of music or read the right kind of books or wear the right kind of clothes. I don’t speak in Bible verses or quote theologians regularly. But the truth is I’ve known a lot of Christians who dress the part, talk the part, listen and read the part, wear a cross around their necks and then go on to do some pretty atrocious things. Obviously that’s not usually the case, but I figure there are better indicators of faithfulness out there…or “in” there.
Salvation through Jesus isn’t about clothing or music or books. It’s not even about walking the Roman Road, learning the ABC’s or understanding a Bridge Diagram. It’s not about praying a certain set of words a certain way in a certain place. It’s not about anything we do at all. The only thing that ever can save us is the abundant, overwhelming, loving grace of God. Period. No bullet points, no lists of rules.
That’s uncomfortable for some, impossible for others. We like rules. We like to-do lists and qualifications. A lot of us are pretty comfortable with the idea that some are in and others are out. I’ve met people who like the idea of an angry judge, separating the sheep from the goats (see, I’m not ignorant of that Bible passage. I’ve read it lots of times as I’ve considered grace and judgment. Matthew 25 is a hard passage).
“So does that mean everyone goes to heaven?” a sixth grade girl asked me once after we read the above passage. “Does anyone go to hell?” (She’s a pretty smart sixth grader.)
‘I don’t know.” Was my reply. Who am I to put limitations on God’s grace or try to figure out where the line is drawn. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not by your own doing (v. 8).” What is grace if it doesn’t come freely? Teenagers, it turns out, like lines. They like to figure out black and white areas. I was there once. As I get older, I’m more aware of the grey areas. There are things I don’t know and don’t understand.
“What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:1-4
So what do I believe and teach about that? Well, I don’t believe that grace given freely means I can just do whatever I want and nothing matters. As a follower of Jesus, a teacher of God’s word, and a shepherd of children and teenagers, I am aware of the call to walk in “newness of life.” I’m aware that as a follower, connected to the Vine of Jesus I am called to bear fruit with my life.
I hope I do.
It’s true I listen to a variety of music and have a problem with classifying my music as “Christian” or “Secular.” I take in a variety of media from various sources. I tend to be a lot more liberal than a lot of my Christian friends. I don’t feel the need to make every blog post, facebook update or even every youth group meeting explicitly “Christian.” And it’s true, I make my share of mistakes and bad decisions, I won’t argue with that. It’s possible that I’m doing it all wrong.
I do believe and hope that as much as possible, my motives, my decisions and my actions may glorify God. I hope that this is the reason that people assume or understand that I am a Christian–not a cross around my neck or the fact that I work in a church, but because they see the work and call of God in my life.
Or because they see a hopeful sinner, overwhelmed by God’s grace-full love.