I used to (wrongly) think Christianity was all about what Christians can’t do. Here are sixteen things that made my list back then, that no longer do.
Three Things Christians CAN’t Feel
How can God’s promises be a balm to your soul if you can’t first acknowledge that you’re grieving? How can you experience intimacy with Him if you can’t be honest about the fact that this circumstance breaks your heart?
God longs for us to bring our true selves to Him, not just to express Christian platitudes (even if you believe them to be true). You don’t always have to be so brave, Christian. The Holy Spirit comforts those who are first downtrodden.
It’s true that over and over God’s Word tells us not to be afraid. But these are not impatient demands from a harsh dictator. How important it is to understand God’s tone—and His heart. Maybe this will help.
When I tell my boys not to fear the crashing thunder, I speak soothingly, with my arms around them, assuring them they are safe. If I, a sinner, tenderly tell my children not to fear, how much more does our good God kindly reassure our fearful hearts that we are safe with Him?
Feeling anger isn’t forbidden; sinning in anger is (Eph. 4:26). In fact, I’d argue that righteous anger is actually called for in certain situations. Just as Jesus exhibited anger over the religious leaders turning the temple (the meeting place of God with His people) into a cash cow (Matt. 21), we too should hate injustice and allow that anger to propel us to compassionate action.
(If you want to read more on the subject of anger from someone who has thought deeply about it, check out David Powlison’s book, Good and Angry.)
Three Things Christians CAN’t Express
One woman told me she sees it like this, “Someone I love throws a surprise party for me: food, cake and everything. In my mind, I’m not allowed to express, ‘This cake tastes awful.’ Instead I should acknowledge the time and effort the other person took to make something special for me, and I should be grateful.”
Well, of course the difference with God is that, unlike this nameless birthday host, He already knows you don’t like the “party” He threw for you. And He loves you fervently anyway. He encourages you to tell Him exactly how you feel. He wants to know, because He wants to have that close of a relationship with you.
It makes me think of Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” God invites us not only to feel our deepest feelings but to process them with Him.
Disagreement with authority
The very concept of submission seems to imply disagreement with authority. (Why else would you need to submit if you already agreed with authority?)
So to say we can never disagree with authority is insanity. There is even a time not to obey authority—if they are asking us to sin. As Peter and the apostles put it when they were strictly commanded by the high priest not to teach in Jesus’ name, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Sometimes sarcasm is appropriate. We even see God employing sarcasm through the biblical authors. Job 38:19-21 and Galatians 5:12 are just a couple examples of this.
Three Things Christians CAN’t Do with Non-Christians
Let non-Christians know you’re not perfect.
Guess what. I’m sure they already know we’re not perfect. So let’s lay the facade aside. Also, the good news of Jesus Christ isn’t that you’re better than everyone else. In Jesus’ words, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). When we pretend we have it all together, we don’t exalt Jesus Christ; we discredit Him and His gospel.
Be friends with non-Christians.
Certainly it’s a general principle that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33). But guess what? Sometimes non-Christians can be more moral and loving than Christians (let that blow your mind). As followers of Jesus, we are called to love our neighbor as ourself (Matt. 22:37-40). That includes Christians and non-Christians. How will we spread the gospel if our only friends are Christians?
Let non-Christians know life as a Christian can be hard.
We do a disservice to non-Christians if we try to convince them that following Jesus is all sunshine and roses. Jesus taught the exact opposite.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt. 5:10-12).
(You can read more about these verses here, as well as eight ways to prepare for persecution.)
Three Things Christians CAN’t Enjoy
Dancing is not evil in and of itself. Sure, some dancing can be done for the purpose of seducing others. But David danced with all his heart to the Lord. Dancing is a fitting response for the redeemed! (Jer. 31:4, Ps. 30:11–12, Ps. 149:3–4).
Just as food is a gift from God but gluttony is sin; so the Bible speaks of alcohol as a good gift from God, but declares drunkenness to be sin (Eph. 5:18). In Psalm 104 the psalmist blesses God for reason after reason, and wine makes the list:
“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (vv. 14-15).
Have you looked at creation lately? Our God is a God of creativity and beauty. We are made in His image, it is a beautiful thing to create beauty. I think this idea that Christians must look frumpy comes from a misunderstanding of 1 Peter 3:3–4. You can read more about the context of those verses in this post.
Four Things Christians CAN’t Do
Yes, Christians are called to love. But love isn’t always loud. God created extroverts and introverts for His glory and pleasure; one is not better or more “loving” than another. (A book I can’t wait to read is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking; another introvert friend I look up to recommended it to me.)
Talk about sex.
This one really doesn’t make sense to me, since we claim that God created sex, and that sex is a good gift from Him. The fact that we’re so prudish about the subject makes me wonder if we actually do believe what we say we believe. (For a great discussion I had about sex and the gospel with the top prostitute in the U.S., listen here.)
Rest and relax.
It’s all too easy to begin to think of God as a taskmaster, driving us to work harder, sweat more, and produce greater results. Nothing could be further from the truth.
After delivering His people from slavery in Egypt, God then makes a covenant with His people. As part of the covenant, He gives ten commandments. The fourth is a command to rest. God has built rest into the creation order. As our Creator, He knows we need a one-in-seven-day to rest and worship Him.
Save money. (Don’t Christians need to give all it away?)
Trusting in God does not negate living wisely. Proverbs 13:22 says “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” How does he do this without saving? Certainly it’s possible to trust in riches rather than God, but saving money generally displays wisdom, discipline, and a readiness to give to others when the need arises.
I’d love to hear from you. Which of these points did you resonate with most? Is there anything you’d add to this list? Do you disagree with any of these? Mostly, I pray this post points you to the truth that Christianity isn’t defined by what you can’t do, but by what Christ did do on behalf of sinners like me and you.
- Full disclosure: I will make a few pennies if you purchase any Amazon products I linked to in this post.
Paula (Hendricks) Marsteller is a compassionate Christian communicator.