Said Jesus never.
Do I have your attention now? Good. That was the point.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how the world views Christians and Christianity in general. There are a lot of misconceptions and ungodly beliefs that stand out. These are views held, both within the church by believing Christians, and by non-christians who don’t yet have a relationship with Jesus. They are false beliefs that misconstrue who Jesus is, why God sent Jesus, and what it actually means to be a Christian.
Here is one misconception that comes to mind: “Now that I’m a Christian, I have to give up the things I love.”
This is one of the most dangerous and destructive false beliefs that I’ve encountered since I’ve been a follower of Jesus.
If you’ve held this belief before, who said that to you? Why do you believe that? I know you didn’t read it in the bible, because it’s not in there. So, where did you get this idea? The truth is God created you in a unique and special way. Those desires you have in your heart, the creativity in your personality, the movies you love, the music you like to listen to – these things are all part of your very special DNA. And God created you to like the things you like.
I’ll give a personal example, through a very condensed version of my own personal testimony. I grew up in a Christian home. We went to a Presbyterian church. I gave my life to Christ at a young age, and it was very real and very powerful. As I grew up, and started to express myself in high school, I started to be met with more and more rules. It seemed to me that the church, at least the one I went to, was more about telling us what not to do, than telling us about Jesus’ love for us. So, I rebelled. I turned my back on church and God, because I thought that being a Christian meant I had to follow a set of rules and not do certain things. That’s what I was taught, at least.
After college, and after several years of pretty intense partying and dabbling in drugs, I had a radical encounter with Holy Spirit. Boom. My world was flipped upside down. God was real. He loved me tremendously. And I immediately knew it. I was “blasted” by the love of Jesus. A nuclear bomb of God’s love was dropped into my life. And I haven’t been the same since.
So, I started going to church again. And I loved it at first. But then I started to hear a lot of the “dos and don’ts” that drove me away when I was younger. I got the impression, that because I was now a follower of Jesus, I couldn’t go certain places. I couldn’t listen to certain types of music or see certain movies. This was an immediate problem, because I really love this band called Phish. When they came back on tour in 2009, I was pretty stoked to started seeing them again. But, if you aren’t familiar with the Phish, their fans are a special bunch. Let’s just put it that way. They like to party. Drink drinks and use massive amounts of psychedelic drugs. These surely aren’t the types of people that Christians should be hanging around with. Right?
But for me, I was no longer doing the drugs, because Holy Spirit’s presence had become my new drug, and I was straight up addicted. Sure, I enjoy a good beer, but my relationship with alcohol had matured into a healthy one. And I was feeling pretty good about life.
I was now going to Phish shows drug-free, and enjoying the music. And it was AWESOME. And I absolutely love the people at Phish shows. They are so creative and free. But I couldn’t help but feel like I was doing something wrong. On Sundays I’d hear my pastor preach about how he used to be a Dead Head and tripped on acid at Dead shows, but he gave up drugs and seeing the Grateful Dead when he became a Christian. That bummed me out. Sure, I understand giving up drugs, they aren’t good for you. I gave up drugs too. That makes sense. But did I really have to give up going to see the music I like because I was a follower of Jesus now? I didn’t feel like I needed to, and I definitely didn’t want to, but going to church kind of made me feel like I had to.
But I guess, if you hear it in church or other Christians say that you have to give up all the stuff you love, then that’s probably what Jesus said too. WRONG.
Here’s the main point of all of this. Jesus never said anything like this at all. He never told people they had to do this or that in order to be acceptable to Him. He didn’t avoid the messy places. In fact, He went right into the midst of some of the darkest, dirtiest, and most sinful places on Earth. He loved on prostitutes, weirdos, outcasts, normal people and lepers. Dude, the fact that he hung out with lepers is one of the most outrageous things that Jesus ever did in His ministry. People with leprosy were shunned by society. They were considered freaks and leprosy was often believed to be punishment for the consequences of the person’s sin. But Jesus went right after the “worst” types of people that the world could produce. And He loved them. He built relationships with them. He brought God into their midst.
So, all this to say God loves you. He loves that you like the things you like. He loves seeing your passion and excitement over things in your life. Being a Christian is not about being perfect or giving up the things you love. It’s about being loved as a son or daughter of your heavenly Father.