Saturday, 28 March 2009

Chill Out

Although I haven’t done the maths, these are probably my second and third most-used words at the moment.* As I support students in Christian Unions, I seem to say it a lot. But occasionally people misunderstand what I mean, to the extent that I might be getting a reputation as a liberal, or lazy, or both. So here’s what I mean.

This isn’t about just telling students to calm down a bit, although they sometimes need to. Think about what people usually mean when they say "chill out." They usually mean stop caring, abandon your responsibilities and think about yourself more. But that’s not how Christians should chill out (which is probably why I’ve been misunderstood before now).

No, this is about the gospel. It’s about the awesome, liberating truth that Jesus died in our place so we can be reconciled to the God we rejected. We rebelled against a God who is worthy of infinite glory and honour, and so we’ve committed the ultimate crime. And the ultimate crime deserves the ultimate punishment. So there is nothing we could possibly do to save ourselves. But the brilliant news is, God loves us so much that he has sorted it out. His own Son, the Lord Jesus, willingly dies in our place and took the punishment we deserve. We don’t have to do anything, because there’s nothing we can do! And now we can have a restored relationship with the God we rejected, we’re adopted into his family, and it’s a relationship we can enjoy for eternity.

When I tell a Christian to chill out, I’m saying take everything that means – our changed status, our changed relationship, our changed future – and live your life in the light of it. If we really grasp how the gospel changes reality for us, it will turn things upside down. And it will give us room to chill out.

So “chill out” doesn’t mean it’s OK to be lazy. But it means there’s nothing we can do to earn our forgiveness or work our way into God’s good books. So we don’t have to slave away as God’s servants; we can joyfully serve him as sons and daughters.

“Chill out” doesn’t mean stop reading the Bible or praying. But it means that, through God’s grace in Jesus, we can have a restored relationship with the God who made us. So reading God’s word and speaking to God should be an exciting, joyful prospect, not a chore.

“Chill out” doesn’t mean forget about doctrine. But it means that there is space for differences of opinion. There is room to be generous as we work through the issues that diverse brings up, because we have a solid truth to stand firm on as we do it.

“Chill out” doesn’t mean don’t bother with holiness. But it means that we are made holy and blameless through the death of Jesus on the cross – we need to trust in his obedience, not ours. And when we slip up, we can go back to him for forgiveness. There is always more grace.

“Chill out” doesn’t mean don’t bother with evangelism. But it means that salvation is a gracious gift from God. We can’t save ourselves, and we can’t save anyone else. So as we do our part in sharing the gospel with people who don’t know Jesus, we can trust God to do his part in rescuing people.

Got it yet? Basically, “chill out” doesn’t mean stop being so Christian. It means be more of one – make it all about Jesus and hold on to the gospel. He said himself, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” So you can chill out.

*NB: #1 is hopefully grace.

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