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Christians get a bad rap in the cool dude stakes. Look at any recent mainstream movie and the Christian in the picture is the one with the serial killer obsession. Christianity is often made to symbolize those things which a modern tolerant society regards as stuck in the past and highly opinionated, holding bigoted views often to the detriment of others and sometimes even lethal! So, when did Christianity become the bad boy religion and is there a cure?
Let’s begin by saying that religion is not a bad thing. Being a believer in something outside of ourselves, the beginning and end of everything, is actually quite a reasonable position to take in life. While science theorizes and tests, the believer just sits back and waits for science to catch up. But sometimes it’s taken too far and reaches that unacceptable state which is the need to dominate others and to preach a doctrine which impinges on people’s rights.
My question is, “When did Jesus ever do that?” The answer is NEVER.
So, what are the 5 rules Jesus would approve of on the journey to being a cool Christian.
- Never judge others. This is rule number one because it’s the one that trips most Christians up. The first thing you want to do when you discover your faith is to tell everyone else what they have to do to discover theirs. While encouraging an evangelical nature, Jesus nevertheless refused to judge anyone and said judgement was the remit of his father. Now some people would say that if Jesus is God then Jesus is here being a bit smart, evading the issue by passing the buck. But there is good reason for this. While Jesus is God’s earthly persona he is not at the same time the spiritual God. Only the spiritual God from his throne in heaven (beyond space and time) is in a position to make an honest judgement. We just can’t do it from our perspective because we don’t know enough about the circumstances as a whole and can’t know what part anyone plays in God’s greater plan. We leave judgement and punishment to the legal apparatus of the state, and to God.
- Have fun without causing harm. Proverbs 17.22 says “a joyful heart is good medicine”. You can’t be joyful if you’re constantly worrying about doing the right thing. The only way to be joyful is to stay faithful while occasionally giving in to the things that make you happy, different for everyone, as long as they don’t harm you or infect others. So, what about all the dos and don’ts in the Bible? Yes, there are a lot of things we are not supposed to do, but most of these revolve around keeping us safe and form the basis of good advice for everyone no matter what their beliefs. An occasional drink, a loving intimate relationship, jokes with friends, all are good for the soul.
- Be around to help out others whenever you can. There’s no need to be constantly virtue-signalling about all the good deeds you do, but in a quiet manner be on hand whenever others need you. Train yourself to be alert to the needs of others. Sometimes this involves nothing more than being a good listener or an available companion. At other times, more serious help is required. Do what you can according to your skills is the advice the Bible gives.
- Spend time alone, or with others, in worship and prayer Worship and prayer is something everyone does all the time, aware or unawares, religious or not. The cult of celebrity has grown out of our need to worship others and even the most stubborn atheist will cry out to God in times of deep distress. The Bible warns against idol-worship but encourages constant and regular communion with God. A prayer each day keeps our needs and desires in perspective, and praise-filled singing alongside other Christians reminds us that we are not alone. This leads to a healthy mental state which benefits us and which we can carry around with us all the time for the benefit of others.
- Be less concerned about appearances. Many people are too anxious to be that perfect beacon for others to look up to and constantly shout their faith from the rooftops. Indeed the Bible tells us to be open about our beliefs, but too much pontificating can be a pain in a gathering of people holding different opinions. Relax in the company of others and be as open to their beliefs as you hope they will be to yours. There is no need to be constantly showing off your moral virtues, or making others feel bad about the lack of theirs, which, in any case, may only be your false interpretation of them. Remember Matthew 7: 3: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?