Someone called today and wanted a copy of “the list” from Sunday. I thought I’d go ahead and post it here as well. This is from my introduction to our study of Galatians…
How would you finish this sentence? If I want to be a really good Christian then I must _________. What would you put in that blank? I’m sure a few of you have some answers swimming around in your head that might fit, but I’m guessing that many of you are thinking right now, “I can’t answer that question….there’s not enough blanks!” That’s because many of us here at this church grew up in churches or a religious environment where the answer to this statement is endless.
To be a really good Christian you must…attend every time the doors are open, three times a week preferably, don’t swear, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t associate with people who do, don’t listen to rock and roll music, don’t go to R-rated movies, don’t play cards, don’t use music in worship, take the Lord’s Supper every week, have a daily quiet time, pray, memorize Scripture, give regularly, men-wear a coat and tie to church and kept your hair short, women-don’t wear slacks to church and be modest, neither of you can wear shorts on Sunday, no mixed swimming, no dancing, only use the KJV, go to a church that’s sound in the faith, don’t clap, don’t raise your hands, don’t show excessive emotion in worship, do everything decent and in order, no eating in the church building, no women praying, no women teaching boys over the age of 13, be baptized in the right way at the right time in the right church by the right person, go to a church that has the right name on the sign, don’t mess up, read your Bible and pray to God you make it!
That’s just to name a few. I’m sure you could come up with more and the answers vary depending on which fellowship you were raised in. Yours may include things like you must speak in tongues, show evidence of baptism of the Holy Spirit, believe in predestination or once saved/always saved. The list is literally endless and it’s no respecter of denominations.
Would it shock you for me to tell you that it’s also dead wrong? That there’s really only one answer to the question of what it takes to be a really good Christian. And I hear the objections now, “But what a minute! There are some good things in that list you rattled off, sure some of its traditions that we don’t fool with anymore, but you mentioned some really good practices for Christians!” I agree. But anytime we start using our practices to define our acceptability before God or our righteousness or justification, then we’ve gotten off message. And it’s wrong. Paul would say we’re teaching a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all.