Oh come all ye faithful…beer drinkers

Christmas carols are coming to a church near you. If you’re anything like myself BC, you may love a jolly singsong of ye olde carol favourites, but possibly fidget in the scripture section. Sort of like, “Yes, yes, we know the story: virgin, baby, no room at the inn, manger, star, kings with gifts, shepherds and angelic hosts. But are you going to do Jingle Bell Rock? Or that Mariah Carey one they sing in Love Actually?”

It’s fairly easy to do ‘-mas’ nowadays. If you pick council-run carols over churchy ones, you’re going to get more ‘-mas’ than Christmas. Taking the Christ part away just makes it sooo much easier to get people along. No confronting conversations about Isaiah and prophecies and someone dying to take away your sin. Makes it easier to get sponsors for the petting zoo and face-painting.

What’s a church to do when competing with -mas? As one church announced recently, you can offer Carols and Beer. I think this is fairly good, given evangelism works best when you meet people where they are at and within their context. Nothing an Aussie likes better than free cold beer. They may not come along for the Christmas message, but if Jesus slips in with the Coopers Pale Ale, excellent! url

But where would we be without social media to discuss sin? Some Christians voiced concern that beer is not an appropriate beverage to be served at church and carols. Hear, hear. Our Lord and Saviour was all about fine wine (remember the wedding at Cana), so let’s at least make it Grange and French Champagne.

I met someone recently who got to know the Jesus fella whilst serving the craft beer at a Men’s Event in a metro church. There he was, doing his job, serving up sensible nips of beer on those fancy wooden paddles for all the men attending. He couldn’t help but listen to the talk. Within a year he was enrolled in bible college and is now in rural NSW leading a fast-growing church. If beer had been deemed an inappropriate beverage that night, he’d likely have not met the Jesus fella. And what really stood out for him? “Well, you don’t expect a church to do a beer-tasting, do you? It made me think I’d missed something.”

The element of surprise. Not a bait and switch, more a beer and save!

I appreciate the damage of alcoholism, alcohol abuse and everything around it. There’s delicacy and I can see why – if the church is meant to be a guiding light, doing as Jesus would for others – some Christians have voiced their concerns. Yet, like any event, it’s about responsible service of alcohol. I’d trust that the beer and carol organisers would not encourage ‘every time you hear the word ‘angel’ take a drink’ games. It’s a large leap from offering a social beer with carols to say that the church is ignoring those who struggle with alcohol and putting temptation in their way.

Yet, even if that was the case, surely a church can be pastorally-smart enough to manage it? I have an amazing friend who is celebrating ten years dry. When we have dinner, I let her choose if I drink or not. Most days it’s a yes, but some days it’s a no. A ‘no’ becomes my prompt to ask what’s causing her to struggle and how I can help?

The same kindness could be extended at a carols where beer is being served – it would take some forethought, planning and a willingness to address the elephant in the room, but it can be done. Broached well, it could be its own pastoral opportunity:

“Welcome everyone to our carol service. You may be surprised to notice that our church is serving beer and also wine tonight. For some, that might be a welcome surprise and may even challenge some stereotypes of Christians being like Ned Flanders (insert pause for laughter). But for others, who choose not to drink for personal reasons, it may be a challenge or a struggle…. and so, what we’ve done is….[insert what suits your community best]….”

Each church is different. Each community is different. So meet people where they’re at. Your church may have a whole bunch of AA sponsors happy to float and mingle. Or there may be a strict confidentiality so you do some pre-work beforehand to have people available to walk alongside those who struggle.

It may not even be needed. But it certainly demonstrates to those folk who are visiting, the ones who are simply there for the beer and the carols, that Christians care. About people and their struggles. Or simply just to offer a cold beer on a hot day to toast the birth of the one who saves.

Like a prayer. Jesus as sex therapist.

Sex is – when done well, with a caring, respectful partner – awesome. Releases endorphins. An orgasm is (in my humble opinion as I can’t speak for a man’s orgasm, not being a bloke) a total mind, body, emotional reset.

Also, a couple’s orgasm is far more satisfying than a DIY solo orgasm. There’s just something about the whole skin-on-skin, intimacy, ‘hey, we’ve both just blown the tops of our skulls off (ahem) together.’ When you’re intimate and comfortable with your partner, you laugh, roll around on the sheets – or across the kitchen counter, whatever takes your fancy – and put some effort into ensuring sex is bloody great fun.

Yes, I’m still a Christian. I’m not subbing for Harlequin/ Mills and Boon romance writing/light erotica. Because guess what, Christians have sex. And hopefully lots of it. Within their covenant of marriage. 12342347_10153357289097689_5032277087355300038_n

Bolting on our newish arrival at Christianity to a ten year marriage – and 20 year relationship – has taken some effort for Big T and I. What God desires for us both within our marriage is fairly different to what we had arrived at under our own steam. Thankfully, God has no desire for me to batten down my own desires, wear chastity belts, ankle-skimming skirts and keep my head bowed modestly.

Yes He loves me, this I know, because He gave me the Song of Solomon sealed section of the Bible as the place to go.

Shall I tell you the secret to a cracker of a Christian sex life? 

Prayer (and stop your jokes about Madonna songs).

I’m 100% serious. His ‘n’ Her Prayer. When I shared this little gem with the SAP he spluttered somewhat. “Phil, in all my years of pastoring, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone tell me they use prayer as foreplay.”

But think about it. What’s the biggest frustration women have with their men? Here’s a typical sample:

  • “I don’t know what he’s thinking.”
  • “We don’t talk enough.”
  • “He doesn’t understand me.”
  • “I tell him what I want, but I think it goes in one ear and out the other.”

In defence of all the husbands, women too often say one thing and mean something else. Which is a minefield for a man who simply says what he means. But this communication breakdown has an awful impact on a healthy sex life, purely because women’s desires are linked with their brain whilst men’s are linked a lot lower.

Big T could have had the most hideous day on earth, come in the house, trip over a pile of laundry and smell burnt dinner, but if I sashayed out the bedroom in my dodgiest ugg boots and tattiest dressing gown, crooked my finger and said something about no clothes underneath, he’d be, well, up for it.

But us women? Wired differently. Foreplay starts the moment we open our eyes in the morning. It’s all in how our brains and minds are engaged. In the scenario above, unfair as it reads, if I come home after a terrible day to a great dinner, laundry packed away, with Big T freshly-shaved and smelling yummy? His odds of come hither, finger-crooking success are greatly increased. Terribly unfair. Blame that serpent. Prior to that I bet Adam and Eve were at it like…well…

So this is where His ‘n’ Her prayer is fabulous because it connects you. Each night I am able to have an intimate, articulate peak inside my husband’s mind. When we pray together, as Big T is being open with God, he is being open with me. I know what he is thinking. The reverse is true.

Regardless of good day, bad day, folded laundry or burnt dinner, it all gets poured out and handed over to God. The clear, undistracted mind I need to really focus on my husband and my sexual response? Delivered. As we pray together with God, we open up more intimacy with each other. The fact that we’ve not had a chance to communicate between home, activities, dinner, kids’ bedtime, homework, late-work, who took the bins out – becomes less of a thing. Prayer as the deliverer of intimacy. Foreplay.

Plus (and I hope I’m not too off piste here), I really get off on the idea as sex as worship. If God designed man and women to be together, and He sees a Christian couple growing closer towards each other and Him as part of their married, healthy sex life, I’d say He’d be jolly pleased.

By the way, this doesn’t occur every time Big T and I pray together. But His ‘n’ Her prayer does appear to increase the likelihood of it happening.

So if you ever ask what I did last night and I tell you I spent an enjoyable time in prayer and worship with my husband? I’ll be telling the truth.

Note: Someone told me today there are historical peaks in babies being born nine months after revivals. So I think I’m onto something…

Jesus is.. Lost In Translation

Daily I’m convinced that Jesus is lost in translation. And if he was lost in translation to me, I’m thinking he has been lost in translation to plenty of others. Below are a few of the comments that have been directed at me:

  • So, practising Christianity is something ‘you do’?
  • But you haven’t changed!
  • Yet you’ve got your s*&t shorted!Unknown
  • Why do you need the crutch of God & Jesus?

So what has been lost in translation?

The misunderstanding that practising Christianity is something ‘you do’

As a friend asked recently, “so, does this take up a lot of your time?” Umm…G&J take up virtually all my time. I never imagined I’d forgo downloading the latest chiller-thriller on my Kindle for J.I Packer’s ‘Knowing God’, but there you have it. This isn’t, personally, something I can switch on and off after church each Sunday. G&J rappelled into my heart and now urge me to get to know them better. Not from some intellectual theological perspective (too much of that has led to the loss in translation, I suspect) but because I WANT to. I want to know them, not have knowledge of them, because the knowing delivers joy.

Unlike other transient happinesses in my life, this joy just hangs on in there. It isn’t intellectual, it just is. Like riding a bicycle or learning to float/swim, it can’t be broken down into distinct parts and explained so someone else can do it. It’s within. From when I open my eyes each morning to their close at night (and quite often overnight when God pays one of his 3am visits and shoves me awake with blog post suggestions).

“But you haven’t changed!” 

As if my new relationship with G&J would change my martini-enjoying, dance-loving, often sweary, robustly honest approach to life. But there was the misunderstanding that I would turn into the fun police. Put a fish sticker on my car. Stop buying devastatingly gorgeous faux snakeskin boots (as if sanctification would ever stop me buying devastatingly gorgeous shoes).

Sadly, Jesus is lost in translation because of what is ‘expected’ of Christians. The ‘do-gooder’ stereotype. Shiny language. I know I’ve changed, but it probably isn’t in the way people expect. Internally I feel more accountable for thoughts, words and deeds. I am no ‘holier than thou-est’, but, God, He makes me think. Again, not because I have to – grace is freely given, there’s nothing I can do to earn it – but because I choose to. G&J make it easier to love another as myself. The Holy Spirit at work? Absolutely. Left to mine own devices, I’d be as short-patienced as ever.

“But you’ve got your sh*t sorted!” 

I didn’t have -isms and -tions (alcoholism, addiction etc) that secular people expect of ‘born-again’ Christians who “have been saved”. For many observing me, I had my sh*t pretty well sorted.

But there’s all sorts of saving. After a poignant poetry/drama about an incredibly busy career woman who finally found ‘quiet space’ in the understanding of Jesus and grace, the SAP commented to me in his tactful, diplomatic way,”hey, that reminded me of you, Phil!”

I recall feeling affronted. “Steady on, I wasn’t that bad,” I responded, thinking of the character’s incessant hamster-wheel of internal chatter. But, with quiet, humble reflection, I had to acknowledge the smart-alec had a point. I hadn’t filled up my life with drinking or shopping or career addictions. My mind wasn’t busy at that low-level. Oh no, it wasn’t filled with chatter. Or gratuitous ‘stuff’. It was filled with being too damn capable. Always the grown-up.  Responsible. I could overlay it with wit and humour, but push came to shove and I’d always, always, pick up the responsibility rod.

In an odd way, G&J have reminded me to be a kid again. To put down unecessary responsibilities. Or, better, hand them over to them. They deliver plenty of ‘in the moment’ joys that children embrace so well but we adults often forget. There is a huge amount of humour in their relationship with me.  At the risk at turning into my psych nemesis, there is a new freedom in being ‘childlike’ that I didn’t get to enjoy when I was a child due to family circumstances.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. – 1 John 3:1 (ESV)

Why do you ‘need’ the ‘crutch’ of God & Jesus?

To term them a crutch insults my faith in them. G&J flank me. Some days they carry me, others they may drag me, but each day they walk steadily next to me. It is my error if I neglect to turn my head and acknowledge their presence. When I do, I walk taller, become lighter and unencumbered.

Crutch? No. Rather armour, wings, shelter – all of those and more. What is lost in translation is that G&J are not some insipid, wafting notions of love, all caftans and peace signs. There is valour and strength that is too often unnoticed:

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Acts 17:11

That’s not a crutch. That’s Russel Crow winning an Oscar in Gladiator. Or Jack Reacher (in 6′ 5″ literary form, not Tom Cruise). That’s stand up and be counted.

61% of Christian singles willing to have casual sex without being in love

No, I did not make that headline up. Since Christian girls being easy got a rise out of many readers (over 3000 views in a couple of days) I decided to do some purity research. There may have been some talk about stable doors and horses bolting when I announced my new research topic. Undaunted, I girded my loins and prepared to get upright and snow white (rather than down and dirty) with purity. 599936-snow_white1_large

Purity means no sex, right?

Whilst I wasn’t raised in a Christian household, I definitely remember getting the message that ‘good girls don’t put out’. I suspect this was more due to fear of teen pregnancy and ‘ruining your life/reputation’ than any sort of desire to instil Godly purity. My message growing up: Sex was ‘better’ done within marriage but, if not, then at least do it safely, don’t catch anything, don’t breed, and for heaven’s sake, be selective.

I even attended a school that had a ‘six inches’ (15cm) rule. So members of the opposite sex could not be closer than 15 cm. Made the slow dances at the school disco interesting. Particularly when the teachers stepped up and started waving rulers around as Phyllis Nelson crooned ‘Move Closer‘ in the background.

So, at 14, I had Phyllis encouraging me to dance as if I was ‘really making love’, teachers fighting the good fight with plastic rulers and a parent who was superb on presenting the facts of life, yet possibly a tad over-zealous about the results of ill-conceived sex. I needed to do some research.

True Love Waits

Type in purity into Google and you can’t miss ‘True Love Waits’.

With a mission to educate young people on the issues pertaining to sex and purity through the lens of Scripture, since “True Love Waits” began in the U.S in 1993 more than 2.4 million youth have pledged their commitment to save sex for marriage.

This includes signing a statement which reads, “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, those I date, and my future mate to be sexually pure until the day I enter marriage.”

True Love Waits Pledge jewellery and apparel start from as little as $4.95. Really? Shouldn’t purity be priced a little more highly? Ah but wait (pun intended): 2.4 million youth signing a pledge x $4.95 minimum spend on a ring or t-shirt = over $8 million.

But does true love really wait? With all of society’s pressures, a signed pledge because all your mates are signing too, and then buying a $4.95 ring as a reminder doesn’t yell important to me. If God and Jesus aren’t front of mind when the hormones are pumping, how’s a $4.95 ring going to serve as a reminder?

But you’d have sex if you truly loved me.

Ah, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that. True love isn’t waiting. It’s hopping round the bedroom with one shoe off and one shoe on, stuck pulling down its trouser leg. Research shows that many young Christians don’t even want the love: Sixty-one percent of self-identified Christian singles who answered a ChristianMingle survey in 2012 said they were willing to have casual sex without being in love, while only 11 percent said they are waiting to have sex until they are married!

Seems Jesus has been lost in translation…again

If you make purity all about not having sex, which is what True Love Waits has done, then, no surprise, it starts becoming all about sex. The True Love Waits pledge gets stuck on ‘sexually pure’.

Purity is bigger than that. The biblical definition of purity is a commitment to Godliness in everything. It’s putting God and Jesus first. It’s not just about getting your purity p-plates on from a ‘no sex’ perspective, but in everything.

Yet I can sort of forgive ‘True Love Waits’ for wanting to dumb it down for teenagers when faced with that definition. It reminded me of Robin Williams’ line about God being stoned when He created the platypus. I’d love to have seen what He was smoking when deciding to go with purity, teenage hormones and no sex before marriage.

My research continues…

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Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble. But joyful? Let’s give it a go.

Is it me, or does Mac Davis remind you a little bit of Bobby Ewing from Dallas (the original series)? Whilst not a music style I usually gravitate to, the opportunity to put this song title and Kenny Rogers in a blog post was just too good to resist. Kenny Rogers. My primary-age soundtrack. My folks knew how to rock it.

This post I really want to get away from sinning, again and again and focus on the fun stuff. The joy.

The SAP would have you know that his Christian fun includes gun totin’, 4WDing, game hunting and head-banging at the front of U2 concerts. But who’s going to believe that of a man of the cloth? I reckon he just says that to see if he can shock people. I’d lay money on him instead being a chai-sipping quiet soul who pops along to the Symphony Orchestra and discusses ways to help the Green Party. Whilst wearing sandals.

What I realised about my exposure growing up was that ‘religion’ was painted as serious stuff. Which then slips into people taking themselves too seriously. Instead, I’ve learnt that it’s perfectly fine to not take yourself seriously at all (which is a big tick in the plus column) but instead take Jesus and God seriously. Meaning it’s OK to tumble into the 8am Sunday service with your netball training gear on, cap shoved over electric-shock therapy hairstyle, with a takeout coffee cup clutched firmly in your hand. I recall the pastor’s wife smiling in delight: “I wish I’d had time to grab one of those,” she told me. See, not serious. Not expecting me to be anything other than me. What a joy!

Worldly joy is an odd thing. Sometimes we think it’s found in the bright shiny car. Or the right postcode.  Credit card debt in society is mounting as we look externally to fill ourselves up with clothes, shoes (well, actually, shoes are a religion for me) and all this consumable stuff. Yet true joy is tied to our internal landscape, not what we have. And joy is intrinsically tied to gratitude. You can choose to be thankful and joyful or you can choose to be ungrateful and unhappy. Christian joy appears to take it one step further.

I wonder, is that why Australia is slipping down the happiest nation list? Why depression and anxiety is on the rise? Have we forgotten to be joyful for, and humbled by, all that we have?

Grab the joy

Since deciding I’d get stuck into Jesus research, I have been struck at how much joy I am able to acknowledge in my life. Music sounds better (even Kenny Rogers) and there are fewer internal ripples.

The SAP posed a challenge during a sermon recently, based on Jesus’ activities in the New Testament. To ask, “what would Jesus do?” (WWJD) before we reacted. Patience, humility, joy in God — all such qualities spring to mind. So, quietly, each time a curve ball of life zinged past my head, I’d ask ‘WWJD?’. An interrupting child when all I want to do is read my book? Marriage irritations over the way the cutlery has been put in the drawer? A client who just didn’t ‘get’ what I was trying to achieve? Stuck in traffic? Well, actually, on the last one I did wonder WWJD and hoped ascension. A neat bit of levitation to make it to the meeting on time…

Religion over the years has painted God as an Ogre and Christians have a reputation as the fun police. A few words from the SAP here: “But it’s almost the total opposite. He’s made all this great stuff for us to enjoy. He just doesn’t want us getting to the stage where we love the gift – but ignore the giver, because by then, the gift has become our god – and the joy the gift was meant to bring gets washed away.”

Christianity reminds us to be humble and gracious – and to follow the lead of someone else. To ask WWJD and adjust our nature accordingly. Have fun. Step into the joy. Love and cherish all the gifts. But don’t forget who gave them.

Yet humility doesn’t mean doormat. No need to lose the chutzpah. Seize life by both shoulders and give it the biggest, lip-smaking MWAH! you can imagine.  Suck the marrow out of it.

On that, I’m taking a break from the blog whilst I do some marrow sucking of my own. Technology free. Yes, I’m heading to a convent for a week, with a vow of silence. All in the name of research, dear readers 🙂

Joy & blessings, back soon!

Sinning, again. And again. And again.

One of the biggest issues I had with Christianity was the whole ‘confess your sins, and all is forgiven’ angle. After all, if all sin is forgiven, why bother not sinning? Why make any effort to live a life that is kind or good?

Problem is, that’s not what Jesus taught. Nowhere did he say, “You can murder, covet and steal, just come back to me each Sabbath (which is a day of rest, by the way, so please don’t murder, covet and steal that day, thanks) and ask for my forgiveness. Then you can start sinning all over again on Monday.”

That’s what has become twisted out of misunderstanding, poor communication and an unwillingness for people to let go of their belief systems about what they ‘think’ they know. It’s comforting to be able to slap at something you don’t truly understand – and worse, spend no time trying to. The danger is non-Christians (NCs) end up spouting ill-informed nonsense whilst feeling falsely superior to those ‘unthinking Christian masses’ in need of a bit of ‘crowd control’ (borrowing a few stereotypes here).

When I look at some of the bigotry NCs shovel (using the definition of bigot as someone who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion), I realise true Christians don’t need crowd control. They need a bloody medal. Turn the other cheek? Far out! The SAP amazes me with his generosity. I reckon I’d have punched a few people by now.

For the past five months I have had the privilege to sit with, question, observe and listen to an amazing cross-section of Christians on their journey. For them, this is a life choice not an event. You see, in The Bible, Christians are specifically commanded not to sin even though they have been saved by the death of Jesus and by his grace: Romans 6-v15: What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Not to sin? Whoa. That’s clearly very different to “keep sinning, over and over, and I’ll keep forgiving you.”

This isn’t something true Christians put on each Sunday when seeking forgiveness. It’s a 24-hour, seven-day a week thing. Unknown-1

To live a life not sinning probably strikes you as nigh near impossible. It did to me. Which brings me round to Jesus again (he pops up a lot). My very basic grasp of it is:

If you accept the grace of Jesus, then not sinning gets easier and easier. Because by accepting that grace you become more Jesus-like. And by becoming more Jesus-like, you are then less likely to miss the mark.

Christians work at not sinning, not because they are ‘fearful of some unseen power’ (as suggested recently) but because of the sheer joy they receive. This has been the biggest stereotype-buster for me. The joy. I don’t think the term ‘happy clappy’ is actually an insult to a Christian. I think it means they’ve connected the dots:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Apostle Paul, Romans 8:38-39)

You don’t need to be Christian to choose to live a good life. You can be kind to others. Do the best that you can. It’s valid, it’s worthy, and, absolutely, far, far better than choosing to lie, kill, maim and steal.

Yet living that life doesn’t make you a Christian. Just like meditating every day, eating vegetarian, and not harming life doesn’t make you a Buddhist.  I slowly started to realise what the interviewer meant in that job interview about Christianity when he said, “But it’s the structure.” It takes some focus on the teachings of Jesus, prayer, a decent dig into The Bible, and getting out our own way.

We can be spectacularly bad at getting out of our own way. Change is often scary. But, mostly, I think too many of us are scared of the possibility of great joy. Which is what Christianity offers. Yet we are so trained for disappointment in this world, we shove it away. So it fascinated me, this joy. Because what I was observing was that Christian joy, unlike worldly happiness, flourished, even when the circumstances around it pointed to the contrary.

It’s a, it’s a, it’s a… it’s a sin

Disclaimer: This video was chosen ONLY because of the catchy tune and title for creative purposes. The use of this video and the subject of this blog should not be construed as any commentary on the sexual preferences of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. Or monks in chains. So no-one get your knickers in a twist.

That I have to write the disclaimer above shows just how explosive this small, three letter word is. In a second disclaimer, I’m wandering around the reservation on my own here. Possibly going off-piste. This blog is what I’ve pieced together since this began. I didn’t ask the SAP to do a sense-edit before I published because I wanted it to be a bit raw and messy. And to be as close as possible to how I – as a newbie – have uncovered it. All the errors here are my own.

Sin.

Straight away, all those notions of heinous wrong doings. I think this is why Christianity is so confronting because no-one likes to be told they are sinful, which is essentially what Jesus is recorded as saying in The Bible. I remember hearing it in church and immediately my back went up. “Here we go again,” I thought.

Fire and brimstone preaching and bible thumping has caused the church a serious image problem when it comes to sin. It either offends the non-Christians (NCs) (“I’m no rapist/murderer/thief” – insert your preferred style of sinner here) or causes Christians all sorts of comparison problems (“Well, I’m not as bad as her!”). It also contributes to why so many NCs think they are going to be judged by Christians and be found lacking.

I think most of us have got the idea of sin all wrong. 

Sin, as defined in the original translations of the Bible, means “to miss the mark.” The mark, in this case, is the standard of perfection established by God and evidenced by Jesus.

So, based on that, the ‘equation’ I came up with is:

I’m not God or Jesus. The only way to NOT miss the mark is to BE God or Jesus. I am patently neither. Then I have to conclude: I’m a sinner.

Say that line a few times. It gets easier. Imagine it’s like an AA meeting.

(Sorry, SAP, if you are now pulling out your remaining grey hairs. I’ll give you a blog post to set the record straight if required. A really small one. Like one of those ‘notices of retraction’ that no-one ever spots in the newspaper).

Now, get ready for the next twist.

No matter what we do, we’re still sinners. Whether you give to charity and go to church each Sunday, or whether you go out on a megalomanic serial killer spree. There is no difference.

Now all the NCs (and possibly Cs) are up in arms. “How dare you compare me to a serial killer?” you yell. Build a bridge and get over it with me. Because much as I hate it (ego, ego, ego), God doesn’t have a sin barometer. Sin just is. There’s no measurement of it. 

If this was a poker game, it’d be feeling like a pretty crap hand, wouldn’t it? Which is why I need to get to the Christian equivalent of a Royal Flush.

Jesus. The lightening rod. The uber-blog post. The central tenet of Christianity.

Distilled down, if you trust in Jesus then all your sin is taken away, all thanks to his crucifixion, resurrection and grace.

Mind-blowing. Rather than try to rationalise it (nigh on impossible) I had to surrender, run with it,  and see where it led. Because of that commitment I made at 3am to God, to step up to the plate and sort out my ‘baggage’ around Christianity. Otherwise I’d still be stuck unhelpfully stereotyping ‘religion’, ‘church’, and ‘sin’.

Rather than being a struggle, accepting the gift of forgiveness and grace is meant to be easy. But I had to put all that ‘Christianity’ baggage down first, so I could free my hands to grasp it.

“We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” – Timothy Keller.