Given that the internet sensation ‘Gangnam style’ has had over a billion hits on Youtube and spawned more parodies than I would care to mention then it got me thinking: what would a version of the song about Christianity look like? Regrettably, I am no lyricist so my answer will have to be given with ponderous words; lacking, to the relief of us all, any form of dance moves.
By Christian Style I mean a certain way of doing Christianity, a way that has no substance, its light and frothy, comfortable in the wrong sense, a way characterised by show, a pretence at the real thing. It’s when we say we’re Christian but we do not act like Christians, it’s the easy path not the hard path of obedience, and it is often our default setting for the Christian walk.
The following list is by no means exhaustive but I hope it is challenging, I’ve found it hard to write. As we begin this, at every point then I encourage you to ask yourself: do you have Christian style?
Loving in words but not deeds
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but in deed and in truth.”
1 John 3 v18
How many times have you offered to pray for someone in a situation of a particular need but not done anything practically to help them? Don’t get me wrong, prayer is always is good, but prayer without deeds is a terrible form of lovelessness. God did not just love us in words but sent his Son to die for us, a deed of boundless love. So should we imitate this. Words are easy, they fall from our lips without a second thought, but deeds, deeds require an expression of love that if often beyond us, for they require sacrificial love, the giving up of time, money, comfort, convenience, something, all in the name of love.
Christian Style is a babble of platitudes and words, it is lacking in deeds for deeds prove too costly, too real for it.
Being forgiven, yet forgiving not
“Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” Matthew 18v32-35
For me, one of the most challenging parables Jesus told is the one about the unforgiving servant. It begins with a servant being forgiven a huge debt of money by a king, the servant then leaves the king’s presence and throws another man into prison for a much smaller debt he cannot pay. The king finds out and sends the servant to prison as the above verse describes.
We are that unforgiving servant, despite the huge debt of sin that God has forgiven us then we are unforgiving to our fellow men, quick to anger, bitterness, thoughts of revenge, malice and harmful gossip. Such is Christian Style: forgiven much yet forgiving little.
Celebrating Christmas, working on Sunday
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.”
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly Christians today leap to have any number of Christmas services while at the same time not keeping Sunday as set apart for God. The Bible has a very clear command about the Lord’s Day (see above); it has no command about Christmas. But such is Christian Style, more concerned with tradition than obedience. Happy to go to church on Sunday and worship God providing that paid work, study, going shopping, forcing other people to work, ceilidhs or just general can’t-be-botheredness get in the way. Because, of course, the last thing Christian Style is about is putting obedience over convenience.
Lifting hands in worship but not lifting a finger to help the poor
“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1 v 15 – 17
In the above passage God is talking to Israel and we should pay careful heed to his words here. For the church today stands guilty of God’s complaint against his people. We spread our hands in prayer and yet leave the oppressed under oppression and the poor still poor. While you might argue that you don’t actively oppress the poor and needy, and that might be true, then it is still hypocrisy to lift our hands in worship if we are not, in some way, helping and giving towards those in need. It is not enough not to do injustice we must actively seek justice.
Christian Style has no time for the poor or needy, no recognition that out of the abundance of what God has given us we are commanded to help those who have little, Christian Style is happy in the very middle class phenomenon of not knowing a single poor person.
Exalting God one minute, joking about him the next
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12 v 28 – 29
I have written about my own guilt in this before. It is easily done, though this does not excuse us, for we live in a culture that encourages us to take everything lightly. Well, as I discovered, if you take Christianity lightly it passes you by lightly too. We cannot stand and praise our Maker in church if the next day we will joke about him. Christian humour is often irreverent and can even verge on the blasphemous. Not that this is a problem if you have Christian Style, for the fact that our God is a consuming fire is lost and God is downgraded to a more manageable conception.
Professing to believe in the Holy Spirit then not preaching the gospel
“But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13v3
It pains me to say this but one of the leading examples of this Christian Style is UCCF, a conservative evangelical organization which will happily preach the gospel to the converted but preaches empty trite at its evangelistic services. It comes from a fear of man, an attempt to preach a more palatable gospel, a loss of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to convict men and women of their sins. Not for Christian Style are the words of Jesus quoted above, not for Christian Style is the proclamation of the reality of God’s wrath, judgement, the sinfulness of sin, the holiness of the law or anything that might ‘put people off’. Yet without these things the beauty of Christ’s saving work loses all meaning and the gospel is invalidated.
Consuming the Church not Serving the Church
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12 v 27
“Many Christians,” Driscoll once said “Treat church like a hotel. Turn up, hear the sermon, steal the towel, leave.” There is no small amount of truth in this. Serving is hard, consuming is easy, Christian Style loves to consume churches, even to the point of moving away if things look likely to get a little bit difficult.
It should not be so, we are members of the body of Christ, and how else can that find expression except in a local church? And does not every body part exist to serve the rest of the body? There’s a name for organisms that steal without giving back, they’re called parasites; don’t be a church parasite, be a church body part. If you do not do anything to serve your church then congratulations, you have Christian Style!
Let me be the first to stick my hand up and say: “I have Christian Style,” How I wish I didn’t! For Christian Style has another name, it’s called disobedience. The only response to disobedience is repentance. There are two types of repentance, one based on godly sorrow that leads to change and the other which is merely words. Don’t repent Christian Style.