I was on a plane recently. As one does, I was trying to distract myself from the turbulence and was looking around at my fellow passengers. In the seats in front of me were people looking through videos and pictures from their trip. Without getting too far into the content of the images, it was clear they had quite the weekend [Disclaimer: I did not watch as they flipped through their entire album of images, this was more of a passing glance]. I also didn’t hear most of their conversation, but the woman was very excited about being able to share and post these images for the world (aka their friends) to see and be jealous about. The approval and praise of their friends on social media seemed like the overarching motivation. I wrote this in my trusty iPhone:
We’re chasing the acceptance of a society whose standards are constantly ebbing and flowing. Even once you acquire it, it’s not guaranteed, and you can be back at square one just as quickly as the next fad hits popularity.
I believe this is because we have an ancient-yet-relevant gospel that gets distorted by today’s preconditions and standards. To me, the gospel is the understanding that God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die for our sins, with no precondition, and with the knowledge that we will continually sin and fall short of perfection. And that he did this by grace, and grace alone.
How Modern Society Distorts an Ancient Gospel
Again: there is no precondition to the gift of salvation. It’s freely given. But society [and church society is not innocent in this by a long-shot] have their way of putting their own spin on things to making the gift of salvation fit into the mold of reciprocation this world is built on.
God did this for you, so you need to do this for him. Act like this, live like this, love like this, and when you are the perfect Christian, you will achieve your salvation.
>>> NO NO NO <<<
We’re freely offered acceptance by a God who expects nothing and wants to grant us everything.
While God would love to see goodness and kindness be the products of our lives, they aren’t preconditions. God asks us to come as we are. That’s who he created us to be. And I believe that trying to be anything other than who He created us to be causes a rift within the depths of our souls [I believe this, because I’ve fought through this]. It puts us at war with our true selves and who we think he wants us to be. The façade of “expected perfection” plagues most modern-day Christians- that we must pray right, that we must serve right, that we must love right. But that distortion is fueled by a society not built on Kingdom-ideals.
The fight between who society has made us think we are and who God has inherently crafted us to be is the fight of our lives, and leaves us with two options. The first, to allow this world to determine our role in it, and by default miss our true calling. The second, to allow God to show us our role, and accomplish what will lead us into our eternity.
Precondition is not in the True Gospel
Losing hold of what is the true gospel is one of my biggest fears as a Christian of the 21st century. We are told to be all of these things to be worthy // loved // accepted, yet each and every one of those ideals // expectations // distractions are not the entrance criteria into a life with Jesus. The gospel specifically outlines the real entrance criteria – salvation comes by faith and faith alone. It doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do, it matters where your heart is.
Jesus was crucified with two other criminals. We don’t know what these criminals did to get sentenced to death by crucifixion, but we do know at least 2 things- 1, that crucifixion in Roman times was the worst way to die, and 2, that they were guilty. Here’s what the bible says happened:
“One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself- and saving us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43 –
This is one of my favorite instances of Jesus in the entire bible. In this one section, He says and acts out the entire gospel, in a nutshell. This criminal, undoubtedly, had a rough past. Maybe he murdered someone, maybe he stole things. Whatever it was, he (by his own omission) was guilty of what he was tried for and deserved to be up on the cross. But when he turned to Jesus and made his faith known to Jesus, Jesus didn’t turn away. Jesus accepted him. No precondition. No requirements. Just the criminal’s faith in Jesus that he was the Messiah, and that he was the way to paradise. And so it was granted.
So, Reciprocation: Not Required
As a woman // Christian // human that is living in today’s society, I’ve struggled with this feeling of reciprocating back to the society in which I am a part of. When I quickly googled the definition of reciprocation, this popped up: “You reciprocate when you return a favor, return a compliment, or respond “the same to you” to the angry guy in the car you just passed. In short, you react to an action, statement, or emotion by mirroring it” (Thanks, vocabulary.com).
But as Christ followers, we aren’t made for that. Do you think Jesus would reciprocate to the upset man in the car the same reaction the upset man is bestowing on him? NO. Jesus would lead with love and light and rise above the accepted expectation of society. Modern society gospel says that we are within our rights to get just as angry as the next person; the true gospel gives us the strength to rise above it all.
We are called to mirror Jesus, not society. If you feel like all you can see in your mirror are earthly influences, find a different mirror.
We’re made to grow and flourish and expand within the freedoms of the true gospel, outlined by Jesus. When we reciprocate to a society that doesn’t have our best interests at heart, we sell our lives short, and our opportunities to be the vessel for love and kindness to enter the world diminishes at a rapid pace. Quite simply, we as Christians were not made to adjust our faith to fit within society’s “Modern Gospel”. So stay steadfast, friends. Know you aren’t alone in your fight, and that God created you to succeed in it.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
– Romans 12:2 –
partner with Jesus >> be the vessel