The Argument: I’m not ready to give up things I like doing but I know I shouldn’t be doing if I was a Christian. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, if I’m going to be a Christian I want to be good, I’m just not quite ready yet.
That is an interesting argument to make against becoming a Christian, and I think based on the nature of that statement you don’t really understand what Christianity is all about, because if you did that argument wouldn’t really make sense.
To be clear, I’m not saying you’re stupid or ignorant, I’m just saying if we take a look at what the Bible (the book that Christianity is based off of and tells us about God) says about being a Christian and starting a relationship with God, we’ll find that being a ‘good’ person has nothing to do with it. Being ‘good’ is not a prerequisite to being or becoming a Christian. Being ‘good’ can be a result of becoming a Christian however.
Also, to be perfectly honest, you or I or anyone else will never be ‘good’ enough to become a Christian if we need to be ‘good’ in order to do so. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9 that it is not through works or deeds that we are saved, but through faith. No one can ever be ‘good’ enough to be saved and recognizing that is part of becoming a Christian.
Now, some churches and people seem to believe that isn’t the case and think (for reasons I really cannot understand) that in order to be a Christian you must be perfect and blameless and better than everyone else. I find these people look at religion and Christianity as ways to judge others and elevate themselves. But that isn’t what the Bible teaches (at least from everything I can see).
But lets get back to the, ‘I need to be good to be or become a Christian’ statement.
Real simple analogy: would you go to the doctor only after you recovered from an illness or after you stopped experiencing serious symptoms? No, you would go while you were ill or while you were experiencing those symptoms.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with that… You don’t become a Christian or start a relationship with God because you are good or righteous. You become a Christian and start a relationship with God because you know you are not, and recognize there is a need for change and/or direction and/or purpose in your life.
I personally did not decide to follow Jesus because I was a good person and figured, “Well I’m good already, may as well get on the Christian bandwagon seeing as I’m already doing all the ‘good’ things I’m supposed to be doing… Why not get credit from God for it?” That just isn’t what happens.
I decided to follow Jesus because, even though I was ‘good’ by many standards I did not have real enjoyment in life and became increasingly angry and bitter despite circumstances that suggested I should feel otherwise. I recognized that regardless of what I did in my life it really had no purpose and didn’t achieve anything meaningful nor did it make me personally satisfied or happy. I saw the purpose and joy and contentment in life some Christians I knew had and I knew that I needed that change in my life.
Now, did I become a ‘good’ person and then commit to Christ? Am I even a ‘good’ person now after being a Christian for a while? The answer is no to both those questions. I am not a good person, but I do believe that Jesus is, and I believe that through his sacrifice I am made blameless.
I still struggle with selfishness and pride and doubt and a host of other things just like every other person on the planet does. Sometimes I fail, and sometimes, with God’s help, I overcome. I find that as time go on, overcoming gets easier and begins to feel a bit more natural, but I still struggle and will continue to struggle until I join Jesus in paradise. I have to ask God daily for forgiveness and for continual help overcoming things I know I shouldn’t be doing or thinking but I want to do or think anyway.
And while we’re on the subject, lets talk about those ‘things’. I hesitate to the use the word ‘sin’, because of the ideas and misconceptions I think people have regarding the word. In my humble opinion, ‘sin’ is defined as doing something God has commanded us not to do. Now people usually go straight to the 10 Commandments from the Old Testament here and say, okay so those things are ‘sins’, but I don’t think that’s really it.
Lets look at an example in my personal life, but also something that everyone struggles with: selfishness.
First off you need to determine, is selfishness a ‘sin’? I’d say yes it is. In the New Testament (Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:26-28, Matthew 22:36-40) it’s made clear that God desires first and foremost for us to love him, secondly he desires us to love others as we love ourselves. The Bible also explains what real love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; so if God commands us to love him and love others as we love ourselves, and love is not self-seeking as the verse says, then when we are selfish we are breaking God’s command; aka committing that scary word ‘sin’ everyone keeps talking about.
So, should I not be ‘selfish’ because it says so in the Bible and it’s a ‘sin’ or a ‘bad’ thing to do? That in itself is not a reason not to be selfish in my opinion, but let me explain.
Take my marriage for example. When I choose to be selfish in something involving my relationship with my wife, what happens as a result? My relationship with my wife suffers, and as such, I suffer. While my selfish decision may provide some short-term, temporary enjoyment or positive aspect, the long-term implication will be a negative one that will outweigh the short-term positive.
In the same way being selfish affects any relationships, including one with God. Do I want a poor relationship with my wife? Do I want a poor relationship with other people? Do I want a poor relationship with God? The answer is no, and God does want us to have the very best relationships we can possibly have with each other and with Him, and that’s why He commands us to love.
We know that God has our best interests at heart (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 58:11, Isaiah 40:31), and while other religions seem to be just meaningless laws and regulations, I believe and have experienced that the way God commands us to live is for our own benefit. He doesn’t have arbitrary rules to limit our fun or restrict our life in any way. Jesus and his disciples teach and instruct us on how to live an abundant and enjoyable life. By doing things we know are against God, we are only hurting ourselves in the long run.
So to sum that up, should I not be selfish just because it says not to in the Bible? In my opinion, no; I shouldn’t be selfish because I trust that God knows better than I do and has my best interests at heart and I know that God instructs us to be selfless in the Bible and I’ve experienced the results of being selfish and know that it negatively affects me and others I care about. I shouldn’t be selfish because Jesus wasn’t selfish and gave his life for mine and even though God doesn’t demand repayment I owe Him everything and more, and I have absolutely no cause to be selfish in light of that.
But knowing what I should do and doing it are two different things, and without God’s help and forgiveness when I screw up, I know I wouldn’t be able to develop that selflessness in the ways that I need to in order to realize change in my life. So basically, if I was not a Christian and wasn’t relying on God’s help, I wouldn’t be able to make any lasting change or difference even though I knew what was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. So you can see the problem of thinking you need to be ‘good’ first and then become a Christian.
I’ll go to another example and a controversial topic, sex.
Some people say they don’t want to become a Christian because then they ‘cannot’ have sex before marriage. I assume then their plan is to become a Christian after they get married so then they won’t have to worry about that anymore. So essentially they are finding a ‘loophole’ in the ‘system’ as it were.
Okay, so then let me ask you this. If you believe there is a God and plan on becoming a Christian after you stop doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing as a Christian, and you know that God has your best interests at heart, why do you think the Bible says you should refrain from having sex until you’re married?
Is it to limit your enjoyment or fun? In my experience and understanding it is not. I know personally that if I could go back in time and cancel sexual experiences I had with other women or pornography before I became married to my wife I would do so in a heartbeat. Most other people I talk to (Christian or atheist or whatever) agree.
Why is that? Is it because I feel guilty because the Bible says I shouldn’t have sex before marriage? No not really, it’s because those experiences now negatively affect my relationship with my wife. I’m not saying it’s anything she is doing or saying or holding against me, I’m just talking about emotionally and psychologically there are negative implications that I now carry with me from past experiences and have to deal with, and I regret it.
It really doesn’t have anything to do with God or his instructions, I know God has forgiven me all my transgressions including those ones, but I personally still have those memories and experiences floating around my brain and I really wish I didn’t. God instructs us to abstain from sex until we find the person we are supposed to be with for the rest of our lives because that is the absolute best thing for us, not because He just randomly decided it would be a ‘sin’.
So back to the doctor analogy, how effective would it be to take your medication for an illness only after you were recovered from that illness? That would seem pointless right? In the same way it just doesn’t make sense to wait until after you’ve decided you are a ‘good’ enough person to become a Christian or develop a relationship with God, because you are never going to get ‘good’ enough without God’s help in the first place…
It doesn’t matter if you are addicted to drugs or alcohol or sex or violence or whatever. God doesn’t demand or even expect any type of perfection or righteousness, all He desires is a personal relationship based on love with you. I can guarantee that if you commit yourself to Him and have a willingness to change things in your life that you’ve been convicted to change that God will help you achieve those changes if you ask Him too.
You may say, “Well I get what you are saying but I still have no desire to change such-and-such aspect of my life and without that desire I know I’ll never change, so then I’ll just be a hypocrite.” If that is the case then talk to God about it, ask him to give you a desire to change. Regardless of your current mindset or circumstance God still wants a relationship with you.
I am amazed at the changes in my life and the emotional and psychological differences that God has orchestrated in me since I became a Christian. I know I wouldn’t have been able to make any of those changes on my own and I’ve honestly experienced miracles in my life due to God’s work in me. If He can do it for me, I assure you He can do it for you.