“Not that good”…ugh

“Coach, I’m just not that good of a Christian.”

My heart broke.

The conversation had taken a difficult turn to stuff off the field, about how this young man could reconcile his decisions off the field with what he believed.  My mind raced with so many questions and comebacks and responses, but I gave voice to none of them.  I was too stunned sitting there in the dorm having this discussion.

To this day, some 9 years later, the words still haunt me.

If it were an isolated case, I think the idea wouldn’t bother me as much.  I have had conversations with church members who have told me that they are not sold out for God in the way they see others or even as much as he or she feels or wants to be.  When I have conversations like these, I find myself split in three directions.  There is a part of me that doesn’t get it, a part of me that gets angry, and a part of me just dies a little.

The part of me that doesn’t understand immediately turns to Jesus’ parables in Luke 14:26-33 about the man building a tower and the king who is facing a much larger army than his own.  In the passage, Jesus teaches that being a disciple costs much.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, deems it “costly grace”.  The young man sitting with me in the dorm that evening had bought into a cheap grace, that somehow he could be a “half-hearted” or “not that good” Christian.

The part of me that gets angry wonders how we ever got here.  How in the world can someone call himself a Christian if he’s not willing to change everything about himself to become more like the One who saved him?  I read what Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in your, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13), and it makes me wonder how anyone can claim faith and not tremble at the idea of claiming something so holy as Jesus’ blood as their own.

The part of me that dies a little weeps that people walk around in this life with a false sense of hope.  They have taken belief in Jesus as submission to Him.  They have exchanged the power of the gospel for something less than complete and total surrender to the One who authored it.  Some 4 years later, I found myself in a similar discussion, hashing out much of the same half-hearted belief system – “How can you claim to be a Christian and partake in under-aged drinking?”  The heart of the question was the same.  His response…”Well, I’m baptized, so I’m good.”  I nearly cried right then and there because here was a guy who grew up in and around church and who had either missed the point entirely, been baptized incorrectly, or had been taught God’s grace was cheap.

All three portions of my response, my confusion, my anger, and my sadness, find their roots in Paul’s previously mentioned encouragement to the church at Philippi and these words of Peter:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-8)

Let us, as believers, move from where they are to where God wants them to be.  Let us seek to grow and add to our faith the things which will keep us maturing in order to be fruitful in our walk with God.

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