Why are you a Christian?
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Silly question, you say. But have you really pondered it?
You probably know many non-Christians, as do I. If you have conversations with them (and I hope you do), they may even say “I don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person.” Guess what? They’re correct. Atheists and agnostics alike can do everything we as B-Flat Christians can do. In fact, many of them do even more than we B-Flat Christians, and can put us to shame for the prodigious amount of volunteer and philanthropic work they do. I’ll be honest and say I see and read about many supposed Christians who are far from the moral, generous people God made them to be, including myself.
So, why be a Christian at all, if you can be a good person without being a Christian?
Perhaps you think I’m going to say “because you’re going to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus.” In my opinion, hell should have nothing to do with it. If the only reason we choose to be Christians is to avoid getting that “giant spanking from the sky” when we die, then life is truly bleak indeed. In his book The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith argues that God is not an angry authority figure for whom we perform in order to gain favor, and whom we always disappoint.
If God were our parent, he would withhold his love, just as our parents did when we behaved badly (“Go to your room! No dinner for you”). If God were our teacher, we would get an F (“This was a poor effort”). If God were our judge, the verdict would be “Guilty as charged.” (p. 78)
Smith also contends that we should not be about trying to earn God’s favor—that is called legalism, and it is a form of superstition and attempt to control God (p. 96).
My feeling is that, though the Bible, movies, books, and legends claim hell is a place of unending fire and damnation, I am convinced that such a description is a way of putting hell into a box that we humans can understand. No one—NO ONE—knows exactly what heaven and hell look like, so pinning our entire behavior on a place we don’t know about is useless.
Even when Jesus described heaven, saying it was “a place of many dwelling places” (“mansions” in the King James Version)(John 14:2) I think he was trying to put into words what was indescribable in order to paint a picture for the disciples—a bunch of B-Flat guys, who could only imagine what a “mansion” looked like.
Do I want to go to heaven? Yes, but only God can decide that, and I can’t earn my way there by my behavior. He gives His love freely, whether I follow all the rules or not. As a B-Flat Christian, I can truly say I do not follow the rules every day, and even go against the rules on both a conscious and subconscious level. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s true.
So, if I’m not a Christian to avoid going to hell, and I’m not a Christian to curry God’s favor, and I’m not a Christian in order to be considered a good person, then again, why be one at all? There are days when I know life would certainly be a lot easier if I weren’t.
The answer for myself always involves three things: Christ, connection, and correction.