Why I Live a Life of Faith (Guest Post from Our First Gospel Guy!)

Why I Live a Life of Faith - Guest Post at wearegospelgirls.com

This post is our very first guest post by our very first gospel guy. Usually around here he’s known as “the hubster.” In real life he’s known as Heshan (pronounced “hey-shawn”). We have a Portuguese last name thanks to the folks who colonized Sri Lanka in the 1500s and introduced his family to Jesus. The hubster’s from Colorado, we met here in New York City when we both helped start a church in Brooklyn, and the rest is history. He surprised me with this post, and I’m not going to lie… It’s a good one! I think I’ll keep him! Meet him in the comments section and let him know what you think.

A pastor once asked me, “Are you a religious man?”  Don’t worry, I knew how to answer…

My wife (my fiancé, then) and I were in the process of driving home from Pittsburgh where we had just attended a wedding, and we decided to stop along the road at a local pancake joint, featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives (definitely Triple D worthy).  When we got out of the car, I immediately spotted a church next door and I asked my wife if we could go in to pray for a moment.  I prayed for the usual… forgiveness for my sins, health and safety for my family, a blessed relationship with my wife, a laundry bag full of money, and a few other things.

Shortly after, I was approached by this hippie-looking gentlemen (I say this lovingly) who as it turns out is one of the pastors at the church (I guess the white collar is on its way out?).  We made short introductions and that’s when he popped the question, “Are you a religious man?” Having aced a number of pop-quizzes in my short 32 years, I confidently answered, “Why yes sir, yes I am.” (I’m not in a PhD program for show people!).  He nodded his head in response and made the same inquiry of my wife, to which she replied, “I wouldn’t say I’m religious, but I am faithful.”

Oh maaaaaaan… seriously, honey? I knew right away that I had failed the pop-quiz.  In fact, the pastor had confirmed my erroneous answer and gently reminded me it was more important to be a faithful servant of Christ, than it is to be religious.  He then engaged my wife and me in an educational discourse on the distinction between religious and faithful.  I wish I could say that I listened to everything he said after that, but the truth is I felt incredibly embarrassed. For a moment, I honestly questioned whether I was a good Christian at all! (I’m Asian… we feel guilt and shame at the drop of a pin).

Embarrassment? Guilt? Shame? Feeling that I disappointed God? Feeling that I’m not a good Christian? Why am I feeling this way? Oh wait —  That’s religion talking.

Religion is a code. Religion is a law. It’s a set of rules and regulations in which we abide by in order to be right with God.  Christianity is something much different. Pastor Marc Driscoll once recited the words of his high school teacher:

“The difference between Christianity and every other faith in the world is that all other religions are about man trying to reach up to God. Christianity is about God reaching down to man.”

Now isn’t that empowering? For some reason, when I read this I could not help but ponder in amazement at this “revelation.” Now, I could just be dumb and perhaps this moment of wonder can be reduced to that of a caveman who discovers fire for the first time, but I am willing to bet that some of you similarly experienced this epiphany and said to yourself, “Oh snap, this dude’s right!”  (Yes, I said snap. Apparently, we have Tracy Morgan to thank for this playful indication of surprise). But why is this surprise to some of us? Why is it that when some folks hear the word Christianity, they react adversely to this?

Perhaps it is because we spend a great deal of talking about the Christian religion, and not about the Christian faith. Whether we realize it or not, there appear to be a number of rules and regulations that govern good Christian behavior.  Now, please understand that I am not advocating for a rule-free platform, wherein we don’t behave according to our faith, but I am saying that Christianity overall has now promoted the regulatory side of religion as the core tenet of Christianity over Christ himself.  I’m sure we’ve all heard or experienced some of these general Christian rules… No drinking alcohol. No eating certain foods. You must attend church no less than 2 days a week. Being saved is conditional upon you having performed good deeds. I could go on for days…. Did you know my mom almost sent me to a Christian high school where it was illegal for you to be talking to a girl alone in the school hallway? Illegal? Wait, what the?!

“Christian Law” has been existence for a long time. And if you don’t follow the religious law, how good of a Christian are you? This sentiment, arguably first popularized by the Pharisees still continues in our places of worship today. Now this may be an extreme example, but you only have to look at the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church to see the ugly side of Christianity.

Jesus was an incredible man who rushed aid those in need… yet the face of Christianity has become the picket sign filled with words of hate, ultimately reflective of malice in our hearts and a means to subject power and control over others. Living a faithful life is a much different enterprise. It’s about love. It’s about giving up control and instead serving others. It’s also about recognizing that you don’t have to earn God’s love… it’s already given! You don’t have to build a skyward path to God because he’s already right down here with us! It’s more about seeking God in every moment of our lives and finding opportunities to share God’s love with others. In the words of a great Christian band, Casting Crowns:

Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers. Let our hearts be led by mercy. Help us reach with open hearts and open doors. Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours.

Unfortunately, religion has become the standard in which we not only judge others, but ourselves as well. But this isn’t what God has in mind for us – it’s not what he intended at all! God has a higher purpose for all of us, and judgment and condemnation are not the ways of a faithful Christian servant. Instead, Christ calls us to harness our energy to seek God’s will in our thoughts and in our actions – to help a neighbor in need, to feed the hungry, to speak for those who have no voice, to love those who are unloved. It is equally important to remember not to hold ourselves to a standard of perfection and recognize that God is always reaching down to you.  So stop feeling guilty, ashamed, embarrassed in front of God.  Just seek God and thank Him for his gentle reminder, sometimes in the form of a hippie pastor,  that we are to be faithful followers of Christ.

What do you think of when you hear the terms “faith” and “religion?”

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6 comments

  1. Well said, all of it.:) Rules, ugh, so easy to get caught up in that thinking and not live a life that stems from what He has done for us. God has been opening my eyes lately to the Americanized version of the “me gospel”. As I was reading your post it hit me that following “rules” is a me centered approach. When I’m focused on what I’m doing, or not doing, the enemy is thrilled because the focus is back on me and not God. I lose sight of the gospel of grace, and all Christ came to accomplish. It’s all about Him. Now if i could just remember that every second all would be cool:) Loved the post!

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    1. Wonderful thoughts Krystle and yes I think you hit it right on the dot with the “me centered” analogy. My wife is completely me-centered…. just kidding! Super grateful for your thought and comments 🙂

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  2. I enjoyed hearing the thoughts of Kim’s hubby! This subject of religion vs faithful follower of Christ is a good one. I was not raised in a law church, but grace so it has been a part of me for a long long time. Still I put upon myself strict rules regarding religion and other areas of my life so this is a great reminder for me….thanks for sharing!

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  3. Beautiful reflections, especially regarding the fruitlessness of self-imposed guilt and shame. Your post makes me think a little about the way we (I) use the word “religious.” I definitely do identify myself as religious as well as faithful, but when I say it I mean that in addition to trying to be faithful to Christ, I also like to participate in a particular kind of worship and church community. I feel at home within the rites, rituals, and relationships of one type of Christianity. (That shouldn’t be taken to mean I’m opposed to other types–I’ve been worshiping in a Roman Catholic church quite a bit lately, even though my deepest heart is rooted in the PC(USA)!). In any event, I guess, for me, “religious” doesn’t need to indicate rigid and proscriptive rule-following.

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  4. Welcome to Gospel Girls, Heshan! It’s wonderful to have your thoughts here and I enjoyed your post immensely. Kim and I have talked a lot about the human struggle to find balance–between rest and service, between taking action and waiting on God, between reliance on Grace and a commitment to living rightly. For me, I’m not particularly a “rule follower” when it comes to God, but I still have this nagging thought that God would love me more if I were a “better” person. So I guess for me it’s really the struggle to accept love, accept being accepted by God regardless of who I am and what I’ve done (or not done). I’ve come a long way in this, believing wholeheartedly that I am loved by God. But I’ve still got work to do in letting go of the fear of not measuring up, of not being of any use to God, etc. I am as white as white can be, but I also feel shame and guilt at the drop of a pin! Thank you for the encouragement that God’s always reaching for me and I’ve only got to let myself be reached, accept the hand that’s offered, rest in the grace of a Savior’s love. Grace to you, Heshan, in whatever journey God is taking you on!

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