I’m spending this week at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Youth Camp, in Fruitland Park, Florida, as the Senior High pastor. I didn’t attend this camp as a camper. But, I’ve been coming to this camp as an adult volunteer (primarily as the Senior High pastor) for one week each summer, almost annually, for the last 27 years.
Some years, the pastors lead a Q&A time with the campers, answering questions they have written down during their small group time. This is my favorite time of the week! Each year, I’m asked if I want to read over the questions ahead of time, which I always refuse. I don’t want to present prepared responses. I told the youth today that I wanted them to imagine meeting me at the local Starbucks, sipping iced frappuccinos together, and chatting about life and faith.
As always, the youth asked substantive, meaningful, challenging questions. But, two themes emerged from the today’s questions that troubled me. They were in essence…
- Questions about being a “good” Christian.
- Questions about going to heaven.
I suspect that there’s some overlap in these questions.
To be honest, I don’t think I even know what a “good” Christian is. Yes, there are “good” things for Christians to do – Bible study, prayer, worship, service, etc. But, I don’t think those things necessarily make someone a “good” Christian. I can sincerely desire goodness – and I do. But, I can honestly say that if there is anything good about me, Jesus gets the credit.
I think they were really asking, “What is expected of me?” and “What about when I’m not ‘good’?”
They also seemed to want to know the minimal requirements for getting into heaven. And, what can keep you out.
The truth is, I hear lots of Christians talk this way. And, I don’t really get it.
I shared with the campers that I think being a Christian is kind of like marriage. I love my wife. I have a relationship with my wife that is really important to me. I want to be a good husband for my wife. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I’m not. I’m pretty sure I’m a better husband today than I was when we married 27 years ago. But, I’m still not as “good” as my wife deserves. Hopefully, in another 27 years, I’ll be better at being a “good” husband than I am now. I really do hope so.
The point of the Christianity is NOT about a spiritual score card or the minimal requirements for getting into heaven. The point of Christianity IS about a relationship with Jesus. Everything about being a Christian is about entering into that relationship and growing in that relationship.
One question, today, was “How often should good Christians pray?” My response was, “How often should I talk to my wife to be a good husband?” If I ask my wife what the minimal requirements are for checking in and conversing with her, I’ve kind of missed the point of marriage. Because she is my wife (and my best friend), I want to spend time with her. I want to talk to her. I want to listen to her. I think that’s what prayer is supposed to be too.
Frankly, even as a full-time professional pastor, I’m not sure that I’m a very “good” Christian, if that means fulfilling certain Christian duties and obligations. But, I do sincerely love Jesus and I do really enjoying spending time with him, which leads me to worship, and pray, and serve, etc. And, I’m pretty confident that our relationship is eternal.
I hope that’s enough. I’m pretty sure it is.