I grew up in a Christian culture that felt a little bit like a club. I hung out with mostly Christians and I think many of us (subconsciously) looked in fear and judgment upon people who doubted faith within our church and school. People who sinned and then showed up at church were judged and stared at, all in our guise of holiness. And while I didn’t ever treat people badly, I see this club mentality in how I thought at times. More than that, I definitely felt the pain of this Christian culture because I, too, doubted and I, too, sinned and then showed up at Church. There was a shame and fear of confession in this culture and a general fakeness all around. The idea of hanging out with non-Christians was commended, but only for evangelism, not because you wanted to. Everything outside of the “club” was scary and sadly, it was what I thought Christianity was in general. This was the picture of what I thought Christian culture was- a club with a lot of shame and some teaching.
Obviously there were also beautiful things in those communities, but the ugliness of those specific things has sunk in extra deep lately. I realized that, in Christian culture, Christianity was looking like something it was never meant to be. It was meant to be about loving God and loving others, but it feels like Christian culture has, at times, tainted the purity and peace that comes with following Jesus.
So, recently, God has been speaking to my heart and shaking my heartache out. I hate seeing the shame and He has been emphasizing the key of His presence. He has been showing me the joy of going back to the basics, away from any of the things I was told before. The basics of Christianity are that God created us, loved us enough to redeem us when we chose differently, and then gave us access to himself 24/7. There is a spiritual realm around us and we can tune into the love of Jesus every moment of every day. We can see how we were loved from the start and that Jesus rids us from shame while still guiding (or disciplining us because He cares). There is this truth that rests over us every day. We get to be at peace, knowing we are truly loved.
When we look at Christian culture, we may forget that this beautiful truth looms over every created person- that Jesus loves every person just as much- the person who sins and then sits next to you at church or the person who doubts. He created them to know His love and to come home to Him (not as a check-marked person, but because He wants them to know they are adored). To Him, they are the world. To Him, they are worth everything He did for us.
I remember how Jesus was with everyone He met. He didn’t use people to show how great He was. Most times, He healed people and told them to keep it hushed. He abided in His Father’s love and then openly loved all with such a purity of heart.
I can’t help but think that if I had only ever experienced the religious “club” side of Christianity, I’d run for the hills. I so badly wish I could have seen the purity of being loved by God before I did and it breaks my heart when Christianity is presented to people as far less than it was made to be.
Being loved by our creator, knowing we are loved and accepted even when we are tempted to feel shame, and then desiring that same love for others, is irreplaceable. I believe that if people aren’t feeling that in Christianity, then it isn’t the fullness that Jesus intended for us. That is what He has designed us for.
To reside in His presence, to know His love, and to see ourselves purely through His love- that is what brings me the peace and joy He talks about. The old way I thought (so religious and with that club mentality) fell so short of the faith I now love. God has been bringing me back to the basics of being with Him and abiding in His love in every way and I hope this blog brings a fresh breath of life to you too. Christianity isn’t about so many things we see in the culture. He breathed life into you and loves you endlessly- and sometimes going back to the simplicity can help us in getting out of the religious ways we think. He always wanted Christianity to feel like Him. He always wanted to invite us into His presence, and He has been showing me how this is so much grander than Christian culture I thought was Christianity.