Christianity is my faith of choice. Depending on your theology, Christianity is also my faith in being chosen. I started walking with the Lord three decades ago. I embraced Jesus as my Messiah, Lord and Redeemer out of a deep need for inner wholeness.
My life was spinning out of control. I lost my moral compass and was wandering through the late sixties. At my moment of faith I had nothing to bring to God. No sense of personal righteousness. No religious jargon. No list of random acts of kindness. I offered God a life I had screwed up through involvement with drugs and stupid relationship choices. What attracted me to Jesus, or Yeshua, as I call Him, was that I didn't need to get religious in order to get spiritual. No pre-salvation clean-up. No need to change my political party. He did not even ask me to cease and desist from my debauchery until after He empowered me with the capacity to make changes.
At a time when I no longer loved myself and gravitated toward self destruction, His love for me drew me to Him.
I approached God with fear. I wondered, "Would He want me? What could He do with me?" I'm not perfect. My foul mouth. My sexual indiscretions. My over-the-top mentality. My attraction to living high.
I started off in the messianic faith with a sense of gratitude and humility. I always reflect on the moment when I first opened my heart to Jesus. My first few years of walking with the Lord was real, honest and vulnerable.
Then I entered the ministry . . . After nine years of college and graduate school I was immersed in evangelical Christianity. I became a seminar speaker. A pastor. A college professor. I loved serving God and others in these capacities.
My relationship to my faith changed. In order to be in spiritual leadership I was required to be an example of transcendent spirituality to others. Not only was I following Jesus; I had to be Him. Peopleexpected to look to me as a shining example of the character of God at work in a human. Always truthful. Holy. Righteous. Persevering. Faithful. Pure in thought and deed. Spotless in speech. Even secular people expected me to be Mr. Christ.
Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. Loneliness. Loneliness. Loneliness. Dishonesty. Dishonesty. Dishonesty.
"Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets"—Paul Tournier. Alas, so many Christians live in spiritual loneliness afraid of their secrets, forgetting God already knows the truth. He is waiting for us to run to His arms finding His love and mercy. Yes, I decided to be a secret agent instead of an honest Christian.
After awhile I realized i was living a double life. Outwardly, I had this facade of Christianity that made others feel good: at least someone seemed to be taking Jesus seriously. Inwardly, I struggled like anyone else. In my heart I was this person who decided to follow Jesus 30 years ago. The inner person cried out to be released because he is THE real person. My transparent self. The self that always needs Jesus. The external, plastic pastoral identity doesn't need Jesus. He is banking on his own self righteousness.
For the sake of spiritual survival, I decided the double life had to come to an end. Now I am no longer a pastor. However, my relationship with God and others has become more real. I can be honest about my moral struggles. I no longer need to live for what others think about me. I feel free. I am like Pinnochio who was released from being a puppet by his creator Geppetto and cried out: I'm a real boy now! Now I say, I'm a real Christian now! No more strings.
Too many followers of Jesus look good on the outside. They say the right things. Refrain from cursing. Shun discussion about sex. stay away from R-rated films. Only listen to sacred music. Read G-rated books and live in a Christian bubble while trembling at the thought of being tainted by the world. Their social life consists of church, bible study groups and small groups. They are several degrees of separation from mainstream living. They showcase a life most secular people are not attracted to. Outsiders fail to see Jesus in these well-intentioned Christians. They see self righteousness and self induced piety. It all looks good on the outside but it is on the inside-the heart, soul and mind-where Christ is the most real.
Give me an honest, sinning Christian who admits his struggle with sin and inhales the grace and mercy of God on a daily basis, and I will show you a true New Testament Christian.
So much more to say on this subject. For those who are tired of the Christian cultural veneer of perfectionistic Christianity, your voice needs to be heard. Too many Christians settle for lives of quiet desperation. You and I need to speak up and say it's okay to be real and vulnerable. God can handle it. He's handling me and I am still amazed He's still hanging around!