“Hey Buddy, I think your zipper’s down.”
“What? Aw maaaaaan! I just zipped that thing up this morning!”
“Well, did you go to the bathroom since then?”
“Ummm, I think so.”
“Well, you’ve gotta zip it back up after every time.”
“Oh. I knew that.”
This is an actual conversation I had with one of my clients a few months ago. He was only seven then. He’s eight now, much older and wiser and less-likely to forget that the privileges of wearing cool jeans and being able to go to the bathroom by himself also comes with the social responsibility of getting dressed again after every time.
“Whew! It’s getting more and more overwhelming every time someone knocks on my door! I’m gonna work LATE tonight! I need prayer!”
“Wow. Prep yourself. Pray and try to read a bit.”
“I’m at work, chickadee . . . ;)”
“Not super dramatic, but quickly.”
This is an actual texting exchange I had with a friend. And yes, I was the overwhelmed one. I wish I could say that this was years ago and that I am older and wiser now . . . but it was last week. I’m grateful to be able to say that I was properly convicted, clicked my trusty www.blueletterbible.org link, and skimmed the entire book of Philippians in about 15 minutes. My friend was right: not super dramatic, but oh so helpful. My day was still hectic, but I was alive and at peace by the time I crawled in to church straight out of work at 7pm that evening. I forgot that the privilege of being in the hectic people-loving career that I love comes with the responsibility of bringing the chaos to God.
That same night in church I heard a wonderful message on focused running. Many good things were said in that sermon that I needed to hear and am still pondering. One little hidden gem of a sentence was underscored for me, though: DON’T FORGET YOU’RE A CHRISTIAN.
I’ve spent the last few years hiding out from church. I know I’m saved. I know Jesus died for me and loves me. I know an awful lot about the Bible. I never stopped loving Jesus. I didn’t do bad stuff. I read my Bible and prayed. I remained always aware that I have chosen to do what I do because of the passion that God has put on my heart. I even have a reminder built in: my parents named me Sallie, which means “God’s princess.” I’ve never forgotten that I’m a Christian. How could I?
But my little Buddy forgot to zip up his zipper. He didn’t forget HOW to zip up his zipper, or even that he was supposed to . . . he just forgot to actually DO it.
Remember you’re a Christian.
This is such a heavy sentence. It needs no exclamation point, begs no questions, and is fully complete. The period on the end of this sentence is like a little bell that rings loudly only once in a busy room, with the sound of its ding dropping a blanket of hush over the crowd as it fades into the walls. Everyone turns, expectantly, wondering what’s about to happen. It’s that sort of sentence. The sort of statement that seems really obvious and simple, like the sweet tinkling of a bell, until you stop, turn, and really listen.
Remember I’m a Christian.
This heavy sentence has been sitting in my mind and growing on my heart for a week now. I have begun to watch myself more closely, almost like an outsider watching a movie. Here are some of the things I’ve found:
- Clearly, I forget that I don’t need someone else to go get God for me when I’m busy at work.
- Even though I don’t say really bad words (unless I’m quoting…), I say words that have no purpose more often than I care to admit.
- I am often not a very diligent person.
- Prayer does not come naturally to me. I would always rather talk to a person first.
- I am a particularly selfish person in the tiniest and most invisible of ways.
We’ve all heard the catch-phrase “What would Jesus do?” That phrase has always driven me nuts. It’s remarkably cliché and now has almost no meaning. It is very true that as the man, Jesus, God set an example for perfect humanity. We should strive to follow that example. I just don’t think that the striving can be boiled down to a cutsey little slogan. Living the Christian life is not about remembering a slogan. Living the Christian life is about identifying the privileges and responsibilities of being a child of God and making them as routine as zipping up after we go to the bathroom. Yeah, sometimes we forget, but those times are the clear exceptions.
So what does it mean to be a child of God? Again, wow.
I couldn’t cover that in a whole book, let alone this little blog. But remember, I’m an ellipses. My thoughts start now and end . . . usually never. So far, I’ve got this:
As children of God, we’re royalty. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10). Wow – that’s super cool! Royalty! Chosen for God! Picked for the light! I got mercy! (And lucky me – I even got the title built right into my name!)
The privileges of being children of God are well-known and easy to list. My favorite is that I get to have a personal one-on-one relationship with my Savior, individual attention from the Creator of the universe. That’s pretty cool to me. But there’s also salvation (forgiveness, grace, mercy, etc.), the fruit of the spirit, blessings of all sorts, the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, eternity in Heaven, and the list goes on. As American Christians we have even more privileges right now, such as the ability to carry around a Bible and pray in public and meet to worship without worrying about getting murdered. Being a Christian is so, so cool.
But it’s all about context, folks. That verse in I Peter is quoted often to talk about how we are grafted into God’s family. But great privilege comes with great responsibility. The blessing of being poor is that you’ve got nothing to lose. Being royalty might be cool from this side, but I wonder if Princes William and Harry would have actually picked that life if they had a choice. Does anyone even know their last name? Their entire identity is wrapped up in being the princes of England and, generally, how they do or don’t bring shame to the House of Windsor. The stress must be unbelievable, and those boys are just the Princes of one tiny little island nation.
We are the princes and princesses of HEAVEN. Why don’t we take it more seriously?
If you read all around I Peter 2:9 (at least in my Bible), you see the following headings:
- Be holy
- Love one another
- Long for the Pure Milk of the Word (I love that one!)
- Offer up spiritual sacrifice
- Abstain from fleshly lusts
- Submission to the government
- Submission in business
- Submission in marriage
- Submission in all of life
- Conduct in suffering
- Commands in suffering
- Elders, shepherd the flock
- Saints, humble yourselves
Get my point? The book of I Peter is incredibly challenging, incredibly convicting, and incredibly encouraging. There is comfort in knowing that we have a job to do. It gives us purpose, it gives us a place in the body of Christ. There is also great comfort in knowing that God knows it’s going to be really really really hard. I’m going to be studying this book a lot in the near future, and perhaps blogging about it. After a skim, I think I could sum it up like this:
- Being a child of God comes with awesome privileges. Being a child of God comes with great and difficult responsibility. “Keep your behavior EXCELLENT among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God. (2:12).”
- This responsibility involves an awful lot of suffering. “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps (2:21).”
- Suck it up and tough it out gracefully and with integrity. “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:6-7).
- It’s worth it. “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (5:10).” (Notice that the perfecting, confirming, strengthening, and establishing don’t come until after the suffering.)
Salvation is by grace. Salvation is just because God loved us enough to do what He had to do to rescue us from our own selfish stupidity. Salvation is adoption by the King of Creation and the Author of Life (Romans 8:15). Suffering is not a consequence of salvation; suffering is just a responsibility that comes with the privilege of being part of God’s family. You can count on it, much like Prince William can count on his every move being scrutinized and not having a last name (or at least no one knowing it). Because we are adopted, we have the responsibility of living gracious and holy lives through the Spirit that now dwells in us.
Don’t forget you’re a Christian.