The modern world wants us to see Christianity – and living the Christian life – as something it isn’t. I think that Christians often succumb to this pressure; I know I do. It is the power of an overwhelming force, for we don’t live in a Christian world. At a certain point, it is too much to constantly debunk the false definitions, even to ourselves; at a certain point, it is too hard to fight the undertow.
A common misconception of the Christian life that I find myself accepting too often is that Christianity is simply a set of rules and laws, a list of do’s and don’ts. When I want to see if I am living a “good, authentic Christian life,” I look to see if there is anything that I do that is contrary to God’s laws, or if there is anything I have omitted that is necessary to God’s laws. If “I’m good” according to this litmus test, I’m free to feel no guilt.
It isn’t as if this test is wrong or un-Christian; but it’s simply incomplete, like saying football is concerned with kicking. Yes, this is true – but it doesn’t catch a real sense of the sport.
The Christian life is about recognizing that everything in my life – career, time, money, relationships, etc – are all God’s, not mine. I cannot claim one as my own. Every single aspect of my life needs to be ordered towards giving glory to God. The earlier test makes the Christian life simply a set of rules: if I’m not breaking any of them, I’m good to go. But the Christian life IS life; everything needs to be ordered toward humbling myself before my creator, loving others, and bringing Christ to others.
Christianity as a set of laws is more than a small misconception easily fixed. First, it is an extremely hard thing to fix; reordering your entire life when you’re not used to it is necessarily difficult. But second, and more important, looking at the Christian life this way alienates us from the true life-giving source of Christianity and true peace. It deadens the vitality of the Christianity. It is hard enough to pass a way of life along to a child; it is nearly impossible to pass along a set of rules. And this is especially true when the rules aren’t attached to “good, ol’ Catholic guilt.”
I fall often to this lie. I know I need to a) pray and b) try not to sin too much, especially big sins. I don’t give the Christian life too much thought if I’m fulfilling those two rules. However, my job, marriage, friendships, relationships family members, exercise, leisure, relaxation, etc. all must point to the reality that Christ created me, saved me, is constantly working in my life today, and seeks to spend eternity with me in Heaven.