Remember Lisa? I’ve done an interview with Lisa a while back. Lisa is my protagonist’s older sister, and she sure knows how a Christian should behave. She knows all the rules and sticks by them. She expects everybody else to stick by them, too! To give you a little impression, here’s an excerpt from “Out of the Dark“, where Lisa meets Josie for the first time, the woman her brother Jim fell in love with – unbeknownst to her.
“We don’t drink alcohol,” Lisa cut in. Josie’s eyebrows shot up.Out of the Dark, Chapter 3, A Good Move
“You don’t?” She looked at Stacey.
“Oh, Lisa, come off it. YOU don’t drink alcohol. I do once in awhile, but you have yet to see me drunk. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.”
Lisa ignored this statement completely.
“Are you a Christian?” she asked Josie instead. Josie hesitated a moment.
“Is that a prerequisite for moving in here?” Josie asked back, to gain a bit of time. She was already aware of the fact that while Stacey was an uncomplicated and warm-hearted person, Lisa on the other hand was a bit peculiar. She hadn’t quite put her finger on it yet, but it seemed to her that Lisa liked to be in control and set the rules. She was probably friendly and sweet as long as everybody played her tune, but might turn nasty if one decided to play one’s own little melody.
“No, it’s not,” Stacey said very decisively in response to Josie’s question.
“Would you say you are, even if you’re not, if it was a prerequisite?” Lisa went on, eyes shining eagerly like a cat smelling rat.
Josie leaned back in her chair and smiled charmingly, envisioning a tail twitching with excitement sticking out through the back of Lisa’s chair. Now she knew exactly what Lisa was like, but it didn’t bother her in the least. Lisa loved the challenge of getting her way without people noticing it. But – Josie relaxed completely – she was not very good at it. Josie chuckled quietly to herself. Her mother was like that. And her mother was extremely good at it. And so was Josie herself, having learned from her – and used it on her successfully.
“No, I wouldn’t,” she replied to Lisa’s question. “If it was a prerequisite, I would think you are religious freaks and would most certainly not want to live with you. Are you religious freaks?”
Stacey giggled again.
“I don’t think I have laughed so much in the past three weeks together,” she said cheerfully.
Lisa’s smile appeared to be a little strained, but she made no further comment on matters of faith.
Do you know people like that? I have encountered them and I must admit that they are not the ones who made the Christian faith attractive to me. I tend to do things my own way and people who want to impress their rules on me usually make me squirm and snap.
But faith is all about rules, isn’t it? God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to keep and even Jesus himself said “You love me if you keep my commandments” (John 15:10). Obviously, there is a connection between the rules and love. Most people think the connection is this: If I keep the rules, God is going to love me. I know many people who see it that way, some of them Christians, some of them not.
For the Christians, this attitude means they can earn their way into heaven. And if they can earn their way into heaven, so can everyone else. All you have to do is keep the rules. It gives them the perfect excuse to act like Lisa and call everyone out who is NOT keeping the rules.
For the non-Christians, this attitude is a monstrous barrier between them and God. Either they don’t want to keep all the rules because there are just too many of them and life is no longer fun if you stick by them, or they feel they will never be able to keep all the rules, well aware of their own weakness.
The good news is: It’s a lie. Nobody can earn their way into heaven. Salvation is a gift, and the only thing you have to do to receive it is to accept it. The connection between the rules and love is this: Keeping the rules is just a symptom of loving God.
When I accepted the fact that I needed a saviour and Jesus was the only one adequate to deal with all of my problems, I was far from perfect. I didn’t keep the rules. I didn’t even know all the rules. Some of them I knew and broke willfully, because I wanted to. The only thing that happened was that I hurt myself. It did not diminish God’s love for me. The longer I’ve lived in this extraordinarily loving relationship with God, the clearer the rules became. And with this growing awareness, my wish to keep the rules increased. Not for the rules’ sake, but for my sake. Not to please God and make him love me, but because I learned from experience that breaking the rules hurts – either me or others.
It makes me sad to hear Christians call people out on their sins, because I know it will only drive them away from God. It doesn’t help. Acceptance helps. Helping helps. Sharing in the pain of a broken heart helps. Good advice or empty prayers rarely do. Another small excerpt that shows the difference.
Josie didn’t reply but stared into her coffee cup, wondering why this was so utterly different from what Stacey had said to her about Jesus. Of course, Stacey hadn’t asked Josie to pray with her, she had only spoken about her own experiences. But Lisa had also spoken of her experiences, so why did she feel offended? It felt like an intrusion, this offer of prayer. As if Lisa tried to make things right from a distance, without getting involved. Stacey had gotten involved, had not been afraid to get real close to what was happening.Out of the Dark, Chapter 7, The Workings of the Heart
There are those who are not afraid to get involved. Those who do not judge. Those who stand by you without asking questions. They might tell you their opinion, but they will never condemn you. They are the forgiven ones. The ones who remember the times when they themselves were helpless, hopeless and in need. The grateful ones who serve God not out of duty, but for love. If you meet one of those, don’t be afraid to trust them. They make great friends.