Recently on “Larry King Live” and in searching the internet, I ran across the term, “Christianity Lite”. It is apparently a pejorative or derogatory expression used by some to describe the teaching of certain ministers. The expression implies a message that places too much emphasis on God’s part in making one a Christian and too little emphasis on the personal responsibility and commitment required in being a Christian. One must understand that the term “Christian” in the minds of these critics is synonymous with saved, redeemed, exclusively God’s accepted people.
Another similar expression I have encountered is “Cheap Grace”. Again “Cheap Grace” is supposed to be a misplaced message of God’s love and mercy without due regard for his demand for righteous living and personal commitment and transformation of life style. The underlying theme is that God has done his part, but man must then do his part for Christianity to become a personal reality. In other words, God only carries salvation so far and then the rest is left up to man: learn the truth, accept the truth, respond appropriately to the truth, and then God’s part becomes effective. Otherwise, God’s part is all for naught.
This would perhaps seem a justifiable argument in view of what church orthodoxy has taught for two millennia. However, I have a problem with a “hit and miss” salvation which still relies on man’s abilities. Man’s ability to bring about their own salvation through getting God’s instructions right and successfully following those directions is completely lacking, as born out by Old Testament history. If the coming of Christ and the completion of his redemptive work did not eliminate the need for man to participate in his own salvation, then what did Christ really accomplish and how are we better off now than before Christ. This is a key question for the proponents of “Christianity Heavy” to consider.
God certainly understood that man left to their own abilities would fail to live up to any new standards of acceptability laid down as a part of Christ’s teaching. If Christians were charged to be instrumental in teaching the requirements for salvation to the rest of mankind, they would fail in that endeavor. If men actually heard the requirements, many because of preconceived notions and other biases, would reject or misunderstand the teaching. And finally, if remaining a Christian required maintaining God’s favor through obedience to the new standards of conduct, then men would fall away right and left just like Old Testament
The message of Christ can’t be exclusively good or can it? After all it is called Good News. In contemplating this question I seem to recall the words of Jesus who said, Come unto be all ye who labor and are heavy leaden for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. The yoke of the Old Covenant Law was anything but easy. It was very demanding of each and every Israelite. Their personnel effort was required daily to maintain a right relationship to God through perfect obedience. Throughout all of
Some point to the Sermon on the Mount as evidence that Jesus came to tighten up the rules and not to make the moral requirements less stringent. After all didn’t Jesus say that lusting after a woman was now equal to adultery and hate was now the same as murder. Yes, Jesus did equate some sins that men view as minor with other sins we do not easily dismiss. However, this was not a tightening of the moral requirements that would apply henceforth. Instead Jesus was simply stating what had always been true, namely that whereas we see big sins and little sins, God sees all sins the same. There is no basis for differentiating between my sin and yours.
Jesus was also the one who condemned the religious leaders of his day for laying burdensome requirements on the people under their instruction. In the name of God they made the spiritual burden impossibly heavy. The clergy of all generations have been diligent in assuring that the people under their tutelage have an acceptable level of guilt, fear, and spiritual frustration. Jesus’ day was no different. He could foresee that in our day, some would try to make sure that the Gospel was a sufficiently “heavy message”. When some insist that the message of Jesus should be hard and heavy, they mimic those whom Christ condemned.