In a world that does everything to say, “You’re perfect as you are,” it’s to be expected that a message that says, “You need to change,” would ruffle some feathers. Christianity’s message is that message. We say, “Come as you are, but expect God to change you.” Because the message of Christianity is that this world is not as it was meant to be. Humans are not as they were meant to be. And God wants to put that right.
If you asked someone on the street what’s wrong with the world, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who says nothing. As Andrew Wilson points out in his book, If God, then what? most answers that people would give to that question would come under the broad umbrella terms of death or humans. No one says an earthquake is evil if it happens in the ocean and no one gets hurt, it’s the untimely death that’s ‘evil’, and you only have to look at the history of the last 100 years to see that humans do some messed up things. It seems obvious to me that any religion worth anything would teach that God wants to change things, to restore them to the perfection they were intended for. Christianity is the message of how God Himself came and died to make that perfection possible.
In this way (I’m not saying in every way) Christianity is at odds with the popular narrative that human beings are good and our goal should be happiness. In fact, Christianity says that we are not good, but that God’s plan for us is to restore us to perfection. Practically, this means that whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, there is going to be junk and wrong and brokenness in your life that is separating you from God (this is what Christians call sin) and what Jesus did on the cross was to take that junk and pain on himself – absorbing it so that we don’t have to – so that we might have a clean slate from which God can make us perfect.
And it is a lie that Christianity’s message ends with that moment of salvation. Once you become a Christian you are not ‘sorted’. You’re justified before God, which means that He sees you as clean, but He’s not finished with you. In many ways, this is just the starting point as for the rest of your natural life God will change you and transform you into the perfect person that you were always designed to be.
That means that right now, I’m saying unequivocally that if you do not know this; if you are not actively in a state of having God live in you and change you, then there is something wrong in your life that needs to be sorted out. You are not left to be as you are. There is sin that you were saddled with from birth that is blocking you from God.
One of the saddest things about some forms of Christianity, particularly in this digital age, is the lengths that some people go to make the message more palatable. They want this message of brokenness and transformation to become acceptable. What tends to happen is that the message gets warped into something it shouldn’t be. Suddenly, sin becomes acceptable as long as you believe in God, but, hang on, don’t even the demons believe in God? Or you get the narrative of ‘God loves me just as I am’. Can you imagine what Christianity would look like if people like Paul and Peter had said that? Well Paul would have been one confused guy who somehow knew Jesus but persecuted Christians, and Peter would never have been able to accept anyone who wasn’t a Jew. Christianity’s growth post-Jesus was only possible because people changed.
I refuse to warp my beliefs for the sake of making them more acceptable. As Soren Kierkegaard says in one of his books, something this powerful and mysterious should offend people, or we’re preaching it wrong. It is only through this initial offense that people can realise there’s anything wrong in their lives. It should be uncomfortable and it should make us realise how far we have fallen.
But there is more to the Christian message than offense. Once we get past that realisation that we need to change three things come into play: faith, hope and love. And let me tell you, there is nothing on Earth that could ever come close to really being in the love of God.