Some did not catch the hyperbole in my Catch on Tuesday about “Always Christians.” There is no such thing as an “Always Christian” since we are all born into sin (Psalm 51:5). The “Always Christian” I was writing about is the person, like me, who has been raised in a Christian home, taught the word of God from as early as they can remember anything, and pretty much accepted it as fact the whole way.
I was told I accepted Christ into my heart when I was five (by the way: “accepting Christ into your heart as your personal savior” is nowhere in the Bible; it’s strictly evangelical-speak), but I remember going forward at church after seeing a Billy Graham film when I was eight. I had no choice. I was sobbing. I also remember crying out to God when I was twenty-one, that if He was real I really needed Him to show up right then in my life. “Forget all the other times I called out to you: this one is for real. If you don’t answer me in some way right now, I’m going to go insane.” (And He did, by the way.)
So when did I actually become a Christian? When was my “before?” When I was three, seven, or twenty? For some people this can get a little ridiculous. I can never remember not wanting to please God. Others have a very real turning point. Their before and after are well defined. I don’t think this has to be the case, nor do I think it really matters.
I’m not so sure everyone can point to a moment in their life history when they were born again. I can’t. I can’t say when I became a Christian, I can only truly say I am one now. Today, I believe, and I definitely plan on believing tomorrow.
In the same way, I don’t believe that anyone can point to a time when they stopped sinning, as in: “I was a sinner and then I accepted Christ, and now I’m not a sinner any more.” Just as we are constantly experiencing our salvation, we are constantly experiencing our need for it. Want to see my current sin? Back up the dump truck; where would you like me to put this?
One of our readers felt I was being unfair to good Christian people who have always lived a life of “joyful obedience.” For instance, she pointed to her pastor’s wife who always wanted to know “if her testimony was less valuable than a person who had led a sinful life, then repented and came to Christ.” My answer to that is: Yes, her testimony is less valuable, because she has led a sinful life too, and she’s not being honest about it. Like Bob, the good Christian kid in the movie “The Big Kahuna” who says to his coworker, “You mean I have to do something I’ll regret in order to have character?” and his coworker answers, “No, Bob. You’ve done plenty of things to regret; you just don’t know what they are.”
That “Always Christian” Catch was for those who, like me, thought that they were Christians because they did all the right things, not because they are present tense sinners saved by grace.
My mother was an incredible Christian woman whose life could be characterized by all who knew her as a life of joyful obedience. If anyone could receive that accolade, it would have been her. Everyone looked up to her because of it. But I knew differently. I knew it wasn’t always joyful. And though I do think she live a life of obedience, I would have to say it was more often than not, a life of resentful obedience. Joyful to everyone out there, a different story on the inside. And how many know that story? Not enough, because of all those people who admired her, most of them also knew they could never live up to her example. I think of all those who praised her at her memorial service, and then went home to their own lives of quiet desperation, and how they could have been set free had they known the truth, that God could use them just like He used my mom, in spite of themselves.