Scrolling through twitter, a specific post caught my attention. A prolific author and Bible teacher (who shall remain nameless) was promoting a new podcast by some friends of hers. She claimed they would help listeners “parent like a Christian.”

What does it mean to parent “like” a Christian? Is that different than being a Christian parent?

The phrasing caught me funny, like calloused skin on a stretch of silk.

We can put this “like a Christian” tag anywhere we want.
Parent like a Christian.
Work like a Christian.
Talk like a Christian.
Argue like a Christian.
Dress like a Christian.
Perhaps it calls us to be distinct. To be in the world, but not of it, as the Apostle Paul encouraged.

That’s not a bad thing. But is it enough?

I wonder if the subtlety of the phrasing encourages surface performance and projection. If we play the part, if we look the right way and project the accepted image, then — mission accomplished. It also allows us to identify who’s in and who’s out, right? I mean, if I know how Christians are supposed to parent, work, act, dress, eat, argue, vote… Well, then we can check off the boxes, for ourselves and others, and consider the job done. Easy-peasy.

Behavior modification. Classification. We can measure that.

Is that all we’re after? The illusion? The status? The club membership?

The Gospel I know goes much deeper than that. People change, but not of their own knowledge or power or habits. It’s internal, immeasurable, supernatural … and entirely inexplicable apart from the Holy Spirit.

“What use are the superficial changes we make
if we neglect the deep work God wants to do inside us?”

Rich Villodas, The Deeply Formed Life

This may feel like an exercise in nuance or semantics. Maybe it is, but I believe it’s important. There is a difference between doing something LIKE this and BEING this.

Imitation vs. Authenticity

Doing something LIKE (a Christian or whatever) reflects meritocracy. It’s good works by ambition and discipline. It’s satisfied with well-built facades. It focuses on what can be seen and measured.

BEING (a Christian or whatever) is simply who you are. It’s less about the top of the iceberg and more about the whole of the iceberg. It isn’t built around you; it wells up inside you. Good works follow because God is good and having him work in us naturally produces overflow. The discipline and ambition may follow, too, but not because we have to perform. Not because we need to earn our space or rank. Not because people need to see us.

In fact, Jesus spoke out against performative faith: praying in public and making a show of offerings. These people “have received their reward in full.” (Matt. 6:5)

And let’s be real: performances are exhausting. Always having to be “ON” and make sure our true colors don’t bleed through… I’m not interested.

Nope. I don’t want to DO anything LIKE A CHRISTIAN. I want to BE A CHRISTIAN, transformed and renewed, understanding fully who I am and to whom I belong and why he has me here. I want to go far deeper than what is seen on the surface.

I want to BE A CHRISTIAN who loves well.
May we live generously, freely, compassionately, fully. I want to throw out any concept of rank and be one who mourns with those who mourn and rejoices with those who rejoice, regardless of personal circumstances.

I want to BE A CHRISTIAN who walks humbly.
People shouldn’t have to earn acceptance from me. They don’t need to check off boxes or prove themselves worthy of my accolades or approval. Recognizing that all people are created in the image of God, I want to see myself as no better or worse than those around me. Oh, we will disagree. We may adamantly oppose one another’s ideas and beliefs. But the people behind those beliefs are still worthy of respect and honor, even if for no other reason than the holy image they bear.

I want to BE A CHRISTIAN who chases after God daily.
In all things. In all roles. In every space and with every breath.

Okay, wow. That’s a lot. I can hear some of you. “Tanya, that’s a tad over-zealous. A bit out of reach.” Yup. You’re right.

Confession: I fail. A lot. Pretty much daily. In several ways daily.

But that’s the point, isn’t it?

No, “failure” is not the point, but the reality that we cannot do any of this on our own IS the point. If we could become righteous and good-works our way into God’s favor, then we wouldn’t need Christ. We wouldn’t need the Gospel. We wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit or the Bible or church or anything else. We could strong-arm our way into acting LIKE a Christian rather than ever actually BEING one.

So here’s the big question:

How can we BE CHRISTIANS rather than just living LIKE Christians?

  1. WE PUT OUR TRUST IN GOD.
    Not in our ourselves nor in our understanding of him or his word, but directly into him, trusting his personhood and building a relationship with him.

    This is so much bigger and harder than lip service. It is an active habit, an internal conviction that often won’t be visible to others.
  2. WE FOSTER RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
    Spend time reading his word, praying, worshipping, fellowshipping with other believers who can encourage us. Create space to meet with God, not just to vent rehearsed lines or frustrations, but to listen as well. To listen and learn.

    Again, this is something that may be seen by others, but more often than not, the reality of it is submerged. It’s personal and private.
  3. WE ALLOW OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD TO PERMEATE OUR LIVES.
    Healthy, growing relationships don’t live confined to a specific building or appointment times. They invade our personal space in the very best ways. They influence our thinking and our habits. Flourishing relationships help us become something better. They change us. Living, growing faith should do the same.

Put away the clipboards and the checklists. Stop striving in your own power. Be still in the presence of God and then walk with him, letting him direct your steps. The rest will take care of itself.

A Humble Disclosure

I’m posting this after a pretty rough week. Details need not be shared. Just know these written words, these holy musings pierce my own soul too. I’m not preaching at anyone. I’m wrestling with my own shortcomings, my own superficiality, my own struggle to take faith deeper. All of this is so much easier said than done. Please do not think for a microsecond that I have mastered any of this. Know that you’re not alone in imperfect, messy living out of our faith. We are growing and learning together.