Would it be easier to be a Christian?
Short answer: yes.
Everyone is both voluntarily and involuntarily mastered by a complexity of factors springing from a singular core belief. That’s not generalizing. If you’re free to do what you want you’re bound by the law of freedom, so then you’re not really free. If you follow rules to get freedom, you’re bound by those rules towards a non-freedom. Both extremes are counter-intuitive to what they claim to achieve. The drunken, partying, skirt-chasing, meth-using, vulgar-mouthed, belligerent next door neighbor is just as much a slave as the religious, uptight, pocket protected, non-smoking, short fingernails internet expert. One suffers by enjoying life; the other enjoys by life suffering.
Every de-churched person disagrees with the semantics of pseudo-freedom. “We’re actually free no matter what you say.” Immediately that’s the problem. A sense of superiority over one category is binding yourself to a hierarchy. Now there’s them and there’s you. The bridge has been effectively burned. Racism and bigotry emerge from categorical thinking. You might think you’ve escaped that, but the minute you think so you’ve only jumped ship to another category.
The Christian is called to be free, and I mean truly free. In the same breath Jesus said, “Carry your cross,” he said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The unthoughtful person finds a contradiction; the less thoughtful person says all things in moderation. Jesus destroyed gray-area categories so we wouldn’t be constantly hopping from liberal leniency to conservative chokeholds and all the gradual spaces in between. If you think, “Jesus fits a category too,” that’s only because your familiar notions have trapped him in one: then we’re not talking the same Jesus but only your version of him.
For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him, said Peter. We see this work out in the daily grind in the most hypocritical way possible. A person says, “I have good morals and I live a good life,” but defines neither and reaches for a self-approximation; it’s as if they’ve set the finish line only two steps away. They’re the aloof elite. Another says, “I do what I want and I like what I do,” but is so shortsighted they’re choked by consequences if they’re lucky enough to live, and the lucky living are cautionary tales. The clever person says, “I work hard and I party hard,” but they don’t know what for except to feed themselves on a surface enjoyment. It’s all implications and no grounding. “I live for my family,” you say. Not only can this also enslave you, but it’s unfair to the millions of orphans, widows, prisoners, and broken homes who can no longer share those dreams. It excludes a generation. All categories must intrinsically exclude. I’m aware by even claiming categories that I’ve put myself in one.
Jesus came to set us free: all of us. It’s so overstated in church we can forget the profound results. Jesus proved there’s actually something worth living for beyond any visible category. By usurping our sin on the cross, he exchanged prisons with us. Eternally the debt has been paid; with the days we have left, we’re freed slaves. Apostle Paul said we are now “slaves to righteousness,” but adds he’s only speaking in human terms because an allegiance to God doesn’t feel like slavery. That’s why later Paul can write, “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” because he at once knows his place on earth and knows what’s after it. His freedom out of earth towards God gives him freedom with God towards earth.
The book of First Peter makes interesting contrasts if you read carefully: he continuously sets up the results of real hope against false hope. Chapter one sets up authentic truth versus perishable knowledge; he says “set your hope fully on the grace.” Chapter two, Peter calls us a royal priesthood as “aliens and strangers in the world.” Chapter three, he calls out genuine wives who “put their hope in God.” Chapter four, he says it’s better to suffer for doing good than evil. Chapter five, he calls for humility and a constant vigil against the devil.
The distinct contrasts all scream a simple principle: what you put your hope in matters. This appears obvious until you look around. Everyone is relentlessly, ruthlessly, blindly, hastily, thoughtlessly careening into all sorts of strange endeavors until life becomes a parody of a bad Hollywood script. Those paths essentially are not easier: it’s multiple u-turns, detours, and purposeful excursions into potholes and dead ends. That’s true for Christians and otherwise. It’s also absolutely inevitable that we’ll fly off the path sometimes. For others, it’ll be the whole time.
I can only exhort you to carefully investigate what you’re all about. Gut the lies immediately. You may be more disembodied than you think. If you’re on the phone doing others things or checking Facebook/Twitter/Blogs while writing a paper or unable to look someone in the eye in a conversation for three minutes, there is a deeper fissure in your being. None of these things are wrong, but the distracted disposition says a lot about what you’re invested in, and more likely what you’re enslaved to. You’ll notice pretty fast that your “freedoms” are actually cramping you, in fact pulverizing you into a hundred different directions without an anchor.
The power that Jesus showed in getting up from the grave sets us in right relation to everything else: his life brings us to life. My prayer is that by that power you’d throw off all the garbage that enslaves you, whether it’s a church-deemed restraint or a worldview that distorts your placement of hope. It’s hard following Christ because we hate leaving behind the world. We like our safe categorical boxes. But under Christ there’s a growing relief, a peace, a sense of ease. Having a good boss makes the hard work easy.
Many will not see it this way. That’s okay. I wish I could say God has never disappointed me, or abandoned me, or shunned me, but sometimes it feels that way. I’d frequently like to give up the whole God-thing because of church, hypocrites, the subculture, the politics, the pressure, the ridicule. No commitment will ever evoke full loyalty every single second. I just dig back down to basics. What am I here for, what was I made for. A slave to nothing, a servant for only One. It’s like an open-hand slap and a splash of cool water at the same time. That’s enough to put another foot forward.
Part One is here.
Part Two is here.
Part Three is here.