When you think about Christianity and Christians what picture comes to mind? For some their picture of Christianity is that it steals your fun, is all about rules and Christians are boring. Sadly, this is the misconception many people have, and I can understand why.
Recently I was travelling with my family through country New South Wales. When Sunday rolls around and we are on the road I love to visit other churches to meet and encourage fellow believers and to take time to remember what Jesus has done for us. I remember one Sunday when we experienced the legalism of religion verses the life of Christianity.
Over breakfast we had looked up what churches were in town and decided to attend the earliest service. We arrived 5 minutes before the service began and there were only a few cars in the car park. We reasoned that a small town gathers small crowds. So, we entered the building and found a seat towards the back. We came with an open mind and on first appearances this seemed a very traditional type church.
Within 5 minutes of the service starting Shelly and I looked at each other with the same thought in mind but decided to wait it out. The people sang old hymns, but with very little emotion. However, what appeared as lifeless singing is no reason to leave, right? It could just be a bad Sunday! Another 5 minutes past and we observed a plethora of ceremonial activities accompanied by lengthy prayers and strange routines. At this point my children are starting to get bored and nudge me politely asking what’s going on. To be honest, I was also trying to figure out what was happening and what it all meant.
At this point a speaker got up and gave a lengthy monotone address of their personal thoughts without reference to the bible or the life of Jesus. When we were invited to stand for more formalities, I concluded its time to leave.
Now you could understand my family’s resistance to my suggestion to try another church just around the corner! The service had just begun, and we could still make it. We gave it a shot and WOW, what a contrast!
When we entered the hall an older lady and gentleman greeted us with a lovely welcome. Although the hall was old you could immediately feel a difference. The people were in the middle of singing vibrantly. Even though the songs were old hymns, just like the other church service, that didn’t seem to matter. Young and old were both enjoying themselves.
There was a time of prayer, but this time people began to speak to God from their heart. When the preacher stood to give a message, he spoke from the bible with passion and conviction. This service was so inviting we hung round for morning tea after the service and chatted to the locals for some time.
Afterwards we discussed both services as a family. Both services sang hymns. Both services prayed. Both services had a message. Why then did one service seem boring and legalistic while the other was fun and full of life? We concluded the difference was their motivation.
The second service was full of Christians who loved God and loved each other. They sang about Him with grateful hearts in worship to him. They spoke to God in prayer knowing he was listening to them and they gathered to hear what God had to say through his word – the bible. God was the reason these people came together, and he was the source of their joy.
Many people have the mis-conception that Christianity is a faith that steals your fun, is all about rules and what not to do. But from my experience, not just of that second service, Christianity is about a living and real relationship with God who brings life, joy and peace into the heart of a person and the soul of the community.
Today God wants to bring his life, peace and joy through you into the life of others and your community. Invite Jesus to do his work in and through you today!