Into the grey: That third part I mentioned
In my post “Into the grey: Love & hate”, I talked about the 2 pronged approach of teaching people “The Sinner’s Prayer.” I mentioned that there’s a third piece to it. Here’s the third piece: Faith.
How do you know that the prayer worked? How do you know that you prayed it correctly? How do you know that you’re actually getting into heaven?
I’m not going to insult you by answering the question that I’m sure you already know. But this was a tricky thing. And I was never sure that I prayed the prayer correctly enough. I honestly believe that I said that prayer hundreds of times. Every alter call, my hand was raised as someone who had just said the prayer. I was up at the front constantly accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
I wrestled with the idea of faith constantly, but I was told that the Bible had the answer. Faith without works are dead (James 2:17). The way to know if my faith worked was for their to be works.
Like many other Christians, I began to put the cart before the horse. I did the good deeds to prove to myself and others that I was a man of faith. Scripture taught me about charitable living, doing unto others as I would do to myself, helping people in their time of need, fighting injustice, helping the disenfranchised and so many others. It taught me about the many sacraments.
I was constantly putting others before me and it fed into codependency and became just another of the many ways that I was an unhealthy person. I knew my salvation and worth as a person through the works I had done in others. I was only good if I could see my good deeds reflected back to me from the work I had done in others’ lives. I could only be happy if I was making other people happy.
I’ve shared a ton about the transformations that I have undergone. And there’s more to the story that I haven’t shared, but I won’t dive into that here. But now that I am no longer doing good deeds to prove to myself (and others) that I am a good Christian, I get to enjoy goodness for goodness’s sake. I love my neighbor because I love myself, not as a way to prove that I am good enough.
I guess the best way to put it is this. I used to believe the roadmap of good deeds in the Bible was the path of faith that proved to myself, others and God that I was truly a believer. But now I realized that they are the pit stops for twinkies and other delicious junk food on the road of life. Loving your neighbor in their darkest times, is the rollercoaster ride at the amusement park that feels better whenever your hands are in the air. Fighting injustice is the creek that you can only find with a hand drawn map but you just have to swim in it because somehow it’s always cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Sitting with the widow in their loneliness and listening to their stories is the diner pie that is both the best in the state but still a local secret.
Evangelical culture taught me that the only way to know I had faith was through my deeds. But I have learned that the nectar of life comes from whenever loving your neighbor as yourself is the best thing for the world.