I grew up with a fairly negative and rules-based definition of Christianity. There were many things that I couldn't do if I wanted to be accepted in the church and go to heaven when I died. There was desperately little excitement in that. Scant joy in knowing God and walking with Him. It's not a very appealing concept!
Gratefully, over the years I've come to an entirely different understanding of what it means to be a Christian and I like it a whole lot better this way. This, is goood!
I now understand that the Bible is like a Flight Manual for an airplane. Because of how an aircraft and its systems are designed and interact with each other, things work best when done in a certain way. The proper or improper use of the fuel pump can make a lot of difference in starting your engine and in various phases of flight. It is to our benefit to do it according to the manual.
God made us in a certain way, physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. In the Bible He tells us how all these systems work together. He wants us to know how to fly well.
The Bible is not a bunch of spoil-sport rules to keep us from having fun. It is instruction in how to best enjoy the trip and keep from crashing! Its rules about relationships, money and much of life are designed to keep us out of trouble, like "Landing Gear Down" on the "Before Landing" checklist on our airplane. We can ignore it and suffer the consequences.
We all know that sin is enjoyable in a certain way. Like the loose woman said in Proverbs 9:17, "Stolen water is refreshing; food eaten in secret tastes the best!" But there are consequences. Like disease. Fear of getting caught. Guilt that refuses to go away. The loneliness of broken relationships. The need for Viagra because nudity in its various forms has so dulled men's capacity to be aroused. Bravado in public does little to sooth the weeping of the soul in private.
The Bible tells us how to avoid all that stuff and experience the good life, yet to our shame many in the church view Christianity as fire insurance for after they die. To them the Bible is a list of do’s and don'ts to obey so you don't get burnt in the end, rather than light on the path to the good life now and forever.
The truth is, walking with God is the most satisfying way to live. The Bible is light in a dark world. It is food for the otherwise unquenchable hunger of the human heart. It is consolation and encouragement. It is practical instruction and correction to help us live well. It is positive, not negative.
Generosity is more rewarding than greed. Power used to build others up is more deeply satisfying than using it to diminish them. Integrity produces better sleep than compromise. The selfish, hurried, animal-instinct driven sex that so characterizes the modern scene is like road kill compared to feasting on the delicacies of patient love-making where intercourse of body and soul takes place in the context of a marriage covenant. And the list goes on! How sad, to miss it.
The institutional church has grossly misrepresented the meaning of Christianity. I don't blame you, if you've been turned off by our hypocrisy and superficiality. But please don't judge God or the Bible by what you see in the church. Read the Bible. Talk with God. You need to know Him. It's the good way to live for now – and for eternity.
And believe me, there are many sincere Christians who represent God with integrity. They are more likely the "little people" around you, than the high-flyers with big names. They are probably the non-dogmatic neighbors or coworkers whom you know are Christians, but who aren't pushy about it. Talk to them. And if you want to – talk with me! I can introduce you to the Friend of Friends.