I have said that a performance type of Christianity can be unsustainable. What I mean by “unsustainable” is that a person can get tired out by having to perform all the time. We are forced to keep up and maintain the image of being a “good Christian”.
A part of spirituality involves doing good works, and so I have tried to be a good, holy, and virtuous person. I tried to be that “good Christian” according to the church’s standards of what a good Christian is. The righteous life became a goal I pursued. Honestly, I have failed to live according to the ideal of the virtuous life…but who really can?
When we live out a performance type of Christianity, it can be unsustainable. A person can get tired out by having to perform all the time because we are forced to keep up and maintain the image of being a “good Christian.” If religion is about keeping up with self-image then that religion itself is a failure.
Though I have failed to keep up to that image, I have never considered giving up my faith in Christ or leaving the Church, but I have felt a burden of guilt–a guilt that’s been planted by people’s expectations. It is a burden and puts us in bondage to our own sin.
[ I was surprised by a recent op-ed article by a Muslim who asked introspectively, “Does Religion Make People Moral?” (N.Y. Times, Nov 2017). Religion can, and it cannot.]
If our own Christian religion only comes as just a bunch of rules, then it is dead. When it’s only about law without grace, it can become destructive to a person’s spirit. A religion of law sucks them dry and leave them spiritually empty. It is no wonder the church has somewhat of a negative reputation. This image of Christ’s church needs to change. We need to change. There is hope yet.
The prophet spoke of an advent or coming of good news that brings a refreshment of life, healing and freedom (Isaiah 61:1-2, NRSV),
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
Praise the Lord! This is what the gospel does. The gospel is to bring healing, liberty, freedom, the Lord’s favor and blessing, and comfort.
I am still learning more of what true religion is, and what it can and cannot do. True religion is not about image, performance, and moralisms; such are human expectations.
The gospel frees us because the good news of God’s forgiveness and unconditional love liberates us from a performance-oriented religion. On the other hand, the law is also a beautiful thing that can teach us ways that improves our way of living. Both law and gospel are awesome things that God has given us.
Both law and gospel are deeply spiritual ideas within our Christian faith. But it’s only the gospel that liberates us. God sent us Jesus to give us freedom and release from bondage and imprisonment from our sin and of false religion. It leads us to a deeper spirituality that liberates and comforts our human soul and spirit that mourns for freedom from judgment that can bind us.