Distorting the Gospel

Back when I was in High School, I was known for being the weird Christian kid (I was in public school). I was pretty outspoken about my faith. I even carried my bible throughout my day for a period of time. Most of my friends where unbelievers, but they respected my difference of belief. One thing I got into the habit of doing back then, as well, was getting mad at my unbelieving friends when they swore/cussed. My thought was, "swearing is bad, so no one should do it." So, if a friend of mine swore, I would give them "the look" of disapproval, or I would angrily say their name. For a while, my friends put up with it, but one day, one of them had enough of me...and she got really upset with me. I can't remember exactly what she said, but it was something like, "Just because you don't swear, doesn't mean none of us are allowed to swear. It's our choice to do what we want." At the time, I didn't understand...I was upset, and hurt...and so I ended up sitting with another group of friends who didn't swear as much. In my mind I was "doing the right thing."

Fast-forward a couple of years, and I'm in the Navy. Sailors really do swear as much as people say they do. But by this point, I had come to realize that it wasn't right for me as a believer, to try to get unbelievers to not swear...but I didn't really have a good, well thought out reason for having this belief. It just seemed to make sense to me...well, today, I had an epiphany...I realized that when we as Christians try to get unbelievers to behave like believers, we are inadvertently distorting the Gospel. Allow me to explain...

When I, as a Christian, tell my unbelieving friend that they have to clean up their life...the message I am inadvertently giving them is that they have to clean up their life in order to become a Christian. I as a professing Christian am trying to get them to legalistically clean up their life...but they can't! They will fail over and over again. The truth of the Gospel states that we can come as we are...with all our failures, and our fears...our sins...and we can find grace at the cross of Jesus Christ. We come to Christ, repent of our sins, and trust in the finished work of Christ...no cleaning up of our life required. The truth of the Gospel says, "Come to Christ and find salvation."

Now, I want to clarify something...this does not mean in our Gospel proclamation that we can't talk about sin. We have to talk about sin...and the fact that we're all sinners. If we are without sin then we don't need the Gospel...so we have to see we're all sinners...because this leads us to repentance and faith. But if all we ever give our unbelieving friends is our list of dos and don'ts...we're not giving them the Gospel...we're giving them legalism...we're distorting the Gospel.

So, talk about sin...but don't end there...we have to get to the grace of Jesus Christ that is found in the Gospel...the truth that though our sin is great, Jesus Christ is a great savior.

See...the Gospel says that you don't have to clean up your life to come to Christ...you come acknowledging your sin...repenting of it, and placing your faith in the finished work of Christ...and then the sanctification process begins...and God, through the power of the Holy Spirit begins His work of "cleaning up our lives." We so often get it backwards, though...

So Christians...let's be careful about how we interact with our unbelieving friends...let's be careful that we are not inadvertently distorting the Gospel.


Sam said…
Exactly. Jesus did not say to His disciples; "Fix your life to be perfect then you can follow me." He said; "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." He went to the smelly dirty fishermen first, on the Sea of Galilee! They were rough men and sailors. Who knows they might've had rough language also. We are saved by His grace, not by our good works anyhow.