By David Russell,
Welcome back for another installment of the Union blog. Powering on we have two questions so related that we can answer them both in one blog. These questions were given to me by a co-worker and display what things people deal with on a regular basis. This gives us a unique opportunity to clear up areas of confusion and give insight into what goes on in the mind of every day believers.
Can you be a true Christian and not attend church?
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:40-43)
This is a good question and can be very confusing. The answer is yes and no. There are those that go their whole life without going to church. Death bed conversions are a real thing. Like the verse above, the criminal was dying on the cross next to Jesus. He asked Jesus to remember him and Jesus response changed the criminals eternal destiny. The beauty of the Christian system is that it’s not a merit based system. Your salvation isn’t about going to church, it’s about humbling yourself before Christ.
The minute you think you have to go to church to be saved is the same minute you get the gospel wrong. However, to be a Christian isn’t to be a soloist. When we leave the hopelessness of individualism, the trappings of this world, and the slavery of free thought we enter into the everlasting Kingdom. We leave what truly binds us from our true potential. We experience true freedom by living for the purpose the ultimate Artist designed for us. That is in relationship and service.
Think of a married couple. You can be married but not live together, but to experience what it means to be married you have to live in relationship. The Christian enters into this once he gives his life over to God. Christianity is meant to be lived in community with fellow believers. Paul describes it as a body. Each part of your body has a role.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1st Corinthians 12:27)
The Heart pumps the blood, the feet carry us, the brain directs us, and the lungs provide oxygen. If one of these systems don’t function, the rest of the body is affected. Attending church is what God commands us to do. Also, being a christian not only puts us in relationship to one another, but also makes us servants to everyone. Our lives are lives of service. God calls us to serve in some capacity and in this our lives are filled with purpose and meaning.
The question is, what issues are keeping you back from attending church? In certain areas, the church has failed people. At the end of the day though, it comes down to the heart. This leads us into the second question about sin.
If all sin is equal, how does a child of God live life and be obedient? Do they have to live a perfect life?
In relationship and service we also learn from one another. We discover new things while sharing ideas. The word says “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) and with that we hold one another accountable. Each persons experience is different but we have this incredible capacity to relate and help each other through similar experiences. In relationship we can truly become rounded individual’s and pass on a legacy that lasts.
This also helps us avoid sin. That said, it doesn’t make us immune. We will continue to struggle and strive but still, we try our best. We live in a fallen world. The only escape and hope is Christ. We could never live a perfect life and by the way, what is perfection? For us, its Christ. Perfection is a person. We can experience it in him only, for it’s his perfection and righteousness that covers us.
Finally, one must ask what does it mean to live life? As the question eludes to, what can we do if there’s so many don’t’s? That comes with the presuppositions about how the Christian life should be lived. Often times, people have to many stereotypes about how we live or should live. The truth is, we are just like everyone else, just forgiven. So, when asked about how we should live; live by faith. My grandmother taught me to love this passage and apply it.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I remember it in light of another verse.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”. (Matthew 6:33)
Through it all, do your best. Love one another. Look through others and not just at them. Remember in life, we don’t just look from side to side, we look up and down too. Just like anything in life, we have to discipline ourselves and live in a perpetual state of learning. When you love God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul nothing can keep you back.