As Christians, we live in the world, but we are not of the world. Right. And what does that mean, exactly?
Others see the Christian life as a list of things that you shouldn’t do. Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t use foul language, and don’t sleep with the spouse of another; basically, a ten-commandment lifestyle. It’s a shallow view of Christianity that falls apart the first time they see a Christian breaking one of the commandments and point out yet another example of that pervasive Christian hypocrite who carries sole/soul responsibility for turning so many away from the church.
To the non-Christian, it looks an awful lot like giving up everything fun. Who actually wants to spend weekends working at a homeless shelter, and getting up early on Sunday to go to church where you put some of your hard-earned cash into the offering plate while the rest of the world sleeps in?
Besides, you don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person. Plenty of people do secular charity work without bringing religion into it. Lots of people sleep only with their spouse, and go through life without lying, cheating or stealing. It is possible to live a moral and ethical life and not be a Christian.
So what makes a Christian life different?
If a non-Christian follows a Christian around for a day, they might not notice much difference in their daily activities. Maybe they will see a person begin their day with prayer or a Bible reading, but maybe not. Sometimes Christians wake up late and grab a quick cup of coffee, run through their workday and then spend the evening running kids to whatever practice or lessons are on the schedule. You might even catch them breaking a commandment or two.
As the Christian hustles through the same obstacle course of life with the rest of the world, there is something distinctly different in their attitude. It’s called peace. Christians lose jobs, have money worries and health scares, but when our lives are rich in Christ it changes how we react. It changes how we view the past, present and future.
In Christ, there is no guilt or condemnation over our past. (John 12:47) There is even gratefulness for all that we have been given, including our trials because we know through Paul’s words in Romans that our suffering through trials produces perseverance and builds character. It’s what got us to the place we are right now, which is living a life in Christ. We are at peace with our past.
In Christ, we live in the present with contentment. He gives us exactly what we need and we joyfully receive it. We have all that we need in abundance and don’t envy what we don’t have. A life with Christ brings a day filled with the fruits of the spirit: Joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
In Christ, we do not fear the future. We trust that He will walk with us through whatever joys and trials come our way. We trust that Christ will keep His promises and that He will never leave us or forsake us. In Christ, we are not afraid of the future.
Do Christians ever get fearful or anxious, angry at the loss of a loved one or angry at God? Of course. We are imperfect humans living in a sin-filled world. The bad things that happen to us can often be tracked back to sin in ourselves or another, but sometimes stuff just happens. A tornado wipes out a town. A disease takes a life too soon. We are left asking God why He let it happen. After all, He has the power to calm the wind and heal a body. Why not me; why not today?
The answer to what makes a Christian life different was on full display in Charleston, SC after 9 people were brutally murdered during a Bible study at their church. In the days immediately following the shooting, family members had opportunities to speak. They spoke to the media, to the public, and in the courthouse. As bond was set for the man accused of murdering their loved ones, they were allowed to give him a message. They spoke of their loss, grief and pain. They spoke of lives forever changed. They did not speak of revenge. No one lashed out at the man. No one cursed him. Instead, they spoke of love and forgiveness and prayed for his soul.
I watched the events unfold over the course of the week and watched the response of the media as they reported at the courthouse and on the street in front of the church. Reporters shed tears and apologized for the display of raw emotion. It was apparent that they were moved by the spirit of love and forgiveness that they witnessed among these family members. Some expressed doubt that they could ever experience such forgiveness in themselves.
First, watch Thomas Roberts on MSNBC as he realizes that a crowd is gathering, not to protest and destroy, but to sing hymns.
I love this next video of Greg Gutfeld on Fox’s “The Five” who is truly moved after listening to the words the family members have for the accused murderer. The full video plays the audio of the actual comments by the family members and then the responses of the panel on The Five, which aired 6/19/15, just days after the massacre. This clip begins at the mark when Greg Gutfeld gives his thoughts.
In the clip, Greg asks a question. Does religion make great people or do great people go to religion? I have good news for Greg! The strength, commitment, compassion, forgiveness and love on display in Charleston is available to all.
When we choose to follow Christ, we do not instantly become good. It takes a long time and a strong Christian community to develop what we saw among these family members. The difference in a Christian is that we aren’t perfect. We wake up in the morning ready to try our best to be like Christ, and most of us fail before our feet even hit the floor. That’s okay though, because in the next moment, we are free from our past, our sin forgiven, and we start anew. Through prayer and the daily study of God’s word, which is how the group in Charleston spent their last moments, we can receive the fruits of the spirit that change the way we live.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
This is our life in Christ. We are not promised perfect health, full bank accounts, and supernatural protection from our enemies, though we may indeed receive these things. What we do have is His promise of peace, joy, and everlasting life.