Picture this: You have a dog. Your friend also has a dog. And lately, whenever your friend comes around, she goes on and on about these dog shows that she puts her dog in all the time. “You need to exercise your dog more,” she tells you, somewhat condescendingly. “There is no way your dog would ever qualify past the first round! You need to feed your dog healthier food and brush his coat every once in a while — it looks terrible! And no dog is going to get an award in a dog show with a bark like that! You should train it to be quiet on your command.”
How likely are you to put your dog in the dog show with “encouragement” like that, hm?
But let’s say you’re walking your dog in the park one day and a total stranger comes up to you. “Wow,” they say. “That’s a really nice dog you have there! He’s peppy, friendly, and his coat is so soft! Have you ever thought about putting him in a dog show??”
“HA!” you bark, sounding a lot like your dog, much to your embarrassment. “I’ve heard about those dog shows! There is no way I’m putting my dog in one of those. Too many rules. And the people I’ve met who do those shows are snawww-BEE. I am not interested in dog shows, thankyouverymuch.”
The total stranger gives a little laugh. “I know just what you’re talking about,” they say with surprising humility. “I’ve met some of those same people. They like to tell everybody why their dog is the best dog and how they’re doing it right. But honestly, the dog show really isn’t about rules. Obviously there ARE rules, because how else would you know what to do in order to win trophies and ribbons? But the rules are only for the people who want to be in the dog show. The dog show itself is actually a lot of fun! You get to bond with other people who love their dog and there’s parties after every show that everyone can come to. Plus, there’s honorable mentions; even if you don’t meet every single requirement, you’re bound to get SOMEthing!”
“Hmmm,” you say slowly. “That actually doesn’t sound like a bad time….” And it doesn’t, does it? Interestingly enough, both people are talking about the same dog show. But only one person has an accurate grasp of what it’s about.
Christianity is the same way. I’m learning a LOT from The Grace of God by Andy Stanley and something I just learned yesterday is that God’s rules are for God’s people. So there’s no point going around trying to get people to stop sinning if they want nothing to do with God in the first place. And when Jesus told us to go make disciples, that didn’t mean, “Go tell all the homosexuals that they’re burning in hell for being gay.” What it actually meant was, “Tell people about Me. See if they want a relationship with Me. Tell them that I am the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE. Tell them that I’ve come to give them new life and to give it to them ABUNDANTLY. Tell them I love them and that I died for them specifically so I could spend eternity with them. And if they tell you they want a relationship with Me, baptize them the way I was baptized and then teach them the things I taught you.” THAT’s what it means to go make disciples.
Being friends with Jesus isn’t about “the rules”. The rules aren’t even really RULES, so much as they’re a PLAN. Specifically, it’s His plan — how He intended things to be when He created the world and how He intended life to be lived. When we follow His plan, we get unbelievable joy out of life. Just ask anyone who genuinely loves Jesus! (I say ‘genuinely’ because, even in today’s day and age, there are a lot of Pharisees walking around.)
The rules are actually good news. The bad news is that sin is very real; it literally enslaves everyone and we still have to battle it even after becoming friends with Jesus. The good news is that the same Power that raised Jesus from the dead is given FREELY to us so we can fight sin and conquer it!!! It gives us the ability to resist that one temptation that we just can’t seem to say no to! And I’ve been friends with Jesus for a while now — I can tell you it works. I can also tell you it’s HARD sometimes. But it’s JOYFUL and it’s TANGIBLE and it’s wonderful.
If someone doesn’t want to be friends with Jesus, I’m not gonna try to teach them what He’s taught me. His teachings are for the people who want to follow Him, who want to love Him back. And He invites everyone to love Him back.
If you’re friends with Jesus, make sure you’re telling people about JESUS. Because until someone has access to His power through a friendship with Him, there’s no point telling them about the rules. His power is the only thing that enables us to follow His teachings in the first place, and we don’t HAVE that power until we have a relationship with Him. You don’t need to get cleaned up before you take a bath, so why do so many people think they have to be following God’s rules perfectly before they ask Jesus to save them from sin? And especially CHRISTIAN people! Why are we walking around trying to clean people up before we introduce them to the bath??
Jesus loves us just the way we are. But He loves us too much to leave us feeling empty and miserable and dissatisfied with this fallen world. So He came to give us life. Do you want it?