“I wasn’t allowed to go to the fair,” he told me, “because I had become a Christian. My mother said, ‘Christians don’t go to the fair.’ But since my brother Bill was not a Christian, he was allowed to go.”


This was Jim’s explanation — after I’d shared my faith with him — of his apathy toward anything faith-related. This was the taste in his mouth about Jesus. Somewhere along the way (youth group, pastor, friend) he heard this astounding offer of a Jesus who would not only save him from his sin but also restore the broken pieces, soar his heart to new heights. But once he said “Yes!” he was handed a yardstick — which completely undermined the work God was doing in his life.

So let me get this straight. When you’re not a Christian, you can do whatever the heck you want. But once you’re Christian, you’re caged. Stuck. Because you might embarrass God.

A tragic story.

In truth, it should be the other way around. Christians should be the freest of all. Rules are for those who don’t have Christ. If the son of God makes you free, you are free indeed. It is for freedom that Christ is set you free. You shall know the truth, Jesus, and the truth, Jesus, will set you free free free.

How about something more like this: “Sure, Jim, you can go to the fair. Why not? Have fun!! You have the Spirit of the living God in you. But Bill? I don’t know. You don’t have Jesus in your life — who knows what will happen?? You’d better stay home.” Of course we wouldn’t say that either — accepting Christ in not a bargaining chip. But if it were, it should bargain in favor of the one whose life is in Christ!

Jesus comes in and makes your life new. Then He begins to work, from the inside out, so that the outside aligns more and more closely to the inside He has already transformed. It always works that way. The old outside — those sin habits you developed to help you cope with the broken inside — will begin to no longer suit you.

If you begin a health cleanse, the detox will begin on the inside and flush the toxins out to the surface. If your skin breaks out, don’t take it as evidence that the cleanse doesn’t work but that it does! You just have to give it time. If we put on some kind of ointment to clear up the breakout, we actually hinder the process.

Why do we have it backwards? Why don’t we rest in what God is doing? I suspect we are a little afraid either of turning people away from God by our mistakes — or even turning God away from us. If we let that in, it’s pretty hard to bear.

But that is completely the wrong focus. It completely underestimates God. As CS Lewis said, you don’t have to defend a lion. Just let the lion go and he will defend himself. We forget that God can defend His own image.

He is doing so much more than we realize, even apart from us. What He’s really asked from us is to love Him and love others. He’ll pretty much do the rest.

Click here to link to a phenomenal teaching about how to focus on the relationship instead of the rules (starting at about 8 minutes on, especially). Phe. Nomenal.

We can rest. Enjoy our freedom in Christ. And know that He has our process right in His hands.

Click here to read “A Tale of Two Trees”

Stop “Acting Like a Christian”

8 thoughts on “Stop “Acting Like a Christian”

  1. I don’t think Lewis would like his name being dragged into a blog post that appears to be saying that non-Christians should have restrictions placed on their activities. The fact is that if you choose to be a member of a particular religious community, then you are expected to conform to that community’s norms; but you can’t force norms on OTHER religious communities.

    • Well that is a way I hadn’t looked at it! I certainly wasn’t intending to hold non-Christians to Christian standards but showing the irony of the mom’s position. You are completely right – We are not called to impose Christian standards non-Christians. We should do just what Lewis said: let the lion loose (introduce them to Christ), and let him speak for himself. Thank you for your insightful comments.

  2. Susan thank you for saying things the church should have said years ago. There would not be so many people who despise the church if these words would have come from the lips of evangelical pastors.

  3. Thank you, Susan. This post is so, so good. I just listened to the sermon on the Verde Baptist link, and I’m sure I’ll listen to it multiple times to take it all in. I’m wishing I could pick up and move out west. 🙂 I encourage you all to listen to it.

    As the pastor was speaking about church people keeping rules and regulations, I had a flashback to a difficult time some years back when I was accused by a “church rebuker” of being a ‘party girl’ because I got a manicure before a Christmas party. Not long after that, another “rebuker” invited me to lunch and over soup and salad read off a list of 7 items of things she said God told her that I was doing wrong. I sat in stunned silence and didn’t eat past the first two bites of food. When she was finished blowing me up, she smiled and said, “You took that really well! Thank you for making that easy for me!” I practically crawled home and cried for probably two weeks. Months and months later, when my husband and I made the decision that we needed to leave this abusive church, the manicure “rebuker” (who had been my closest friend at the time), invited herself over and, as I served tea, proceeded to pull out a list she’d compiled of reasons why I had made “bad decision after bad decision.” Of course they were bad decisions to HER, because I wasn’t following HER program. I was too nice. I should’ve kicked her out. But I sat and listened, and she became more and more enraged that I wasn’t reacting. So then she began calling me names, because, once again, I wasn’t following HER program. Needless to say, I dissolved that relationship pronto. But, it took me years to realize that SHE was the one who wasn’t free.

    When we use words like hammers, when we tell others that they need a good dose of the “hard word” (oh, yes the manicure rebuker said that to me), we shatter grace to pieces. When we preach rules over relationship, we move people to the fringes – and we keep ’em there.

    Thank you for this beautiful post, Susan.

    • Thank you sharing this beautifully written story, my friend. What could be more tragic than turning an offer of LIFE into a sticker chart for good behavior? Love your line: “When we preach rules over relationship, we move people to the fringes – and we keep ‘em there.” Absolutely true! Keep the faith, my friend.

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