“Why are you smiling?” My son asked me.
“Because there is no such thing as a non-practicing Christian.”
My son was in the throes of telling me about a conversation he had overheard, where a guy had said he was not a practicing Christian. I couldn’t help smiling. I’ve heard it before.
Here in the south, it is quite likely that they were brought up going to church, hearing about Jesus. It’s a cultural norm that, for some, holds little real meaning in their lives. It’s one of the dangers of a churched culture, where going to church is an obligation rather than a precious freedom, privilege, or source of strength.
They probably know something of the stories told within the Bible, but as they grew up, they veered away from the truths they learned from the Sunday school teachers of their childhood. They begin to wonder if there isn’t more to it, and instead of pressing in, they drift away.
By referring to themselves as a “non- practicing Christian”, I imagine this person has some Catholic influence in their lives. The phrase “non-practicing Catholic” actually is a thing. This just means that while a person identifies with the Catholic Church, they don’t do the things that most Catholics do. They don’t attend Mass, or go to confession. They don’t partake in the sacraments of the church, and maybe they incorporate things into their lives that the Vatican disavows. But if you ask them about their religious affiliation, they still claim Catholicism.
The Bible is clear on the subject of a non-practicing Christian, however. According to scripture, you are either following Christ or you are not. Christianity doesn’t have a place for fence sitters. If you’ve got one foot in the world, then you might as well pull that other foot over the fence, too.
It was Jesus who said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Matthew 12:30.
2 Corinthians, Chapter 6, says that there is no fellowship between light and dark. The letter to the church in Laodicea in Revelation scolds them for being fence sitters. Be in or be out, it says, but there can be no fence sitting in the Kingdom of God.
My son told me this non-practicing Christian said that rather than be fully devoted to Christ, he has decided instead to just be a good person. He is intentional about doing good deeds, volunteering, and giving back to the community. He is hoping that he has enough good deeds racked up by the time he dies that when he gets to his day of judgement the scales will tip in his favor.
The truth is, when you play that hunger game, those odds are never in your favor. Scripture tells us that no one is good. There is none righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10)We all fall short of the measure required of us. (Romans 3:23) There are not enough good deeds for us to do that will justify us in the sight of a holy God. In His great love for us, God made a way for us to be with him. (John 3:16) Jesus, the one perfect Son, was sacrificed to pay our debts.
God does not desire that anyone go to hell. (2 Peter 3:9) Jesus, God the Son, paid the bill for our transgressions with the sacrifice of his own life. The sinless One took on the sins of all. If we spend eternity apart from God, it is because, as my pastor says, we choose to pay our own bill… forever.
Let’s say you eat out at a restaurant. A really nice one. You spend hours gorging on the finest foods. So the bill comes and, even though you saved up money, there is no way what you have is enough to pay your enormous bill.
But alas! Someone has taken pity and settled it for you! It’s done! You owe nothing!
But no. You cannot accept this gift so freely given. Who would sacrifice themselves in that way for you? Do they understand what a glutton you have been? So you reject the gift and stay to pay your own bill by working to make restitution for your gluttony… forever.
Who would do that? Well, far too many, I am afraid.
If good deeds don’t satisfy our bill, does this absolve us from doing them? Nope. But it changes the reason we do them. The Bible tells us that these good things we do are not supposed to point to what a good person we are, but to what a good God He is! (Matthew 5:6)
While there is no such thing as a “Non-practicing Christian”, there is such a thing as a practicing one. I’m going to keep practicing until I get it right, how about you? I’m going to be forever grateful for His sacrifice to satisfy my bill, and I’m going to try hard to point attention to His goodness, His faithfulness, and His love.
Let’s go in with both feet.