So how has going to church most of my life (in some ways) kept me from living out a Christian life?
We live in a (church) culture that defines people by what they believe. For the most part, it doesn't matter what one does, (give to the poor, work for justice, follows Jesus, etc) as long as one has the "right beliefs". This is why it's so easy to write someone off as a heretic, though they may be doing great work for the kingdom of God, when they express a belief that doesn't quite fit within the status quo (aka... whoever is yelling the loudest at the time) they are no longer considered a Christian, whether they act like Christ or not .
This also works with the way we perceive ourselves. By allowing myself to be defined by my role as a youth pastor at church, giving weekly bible teachings, and leading small groups in my home (which are all situations where I could proclaim and affirm the right way we should all be living) I could ignore and mask my true beliefs, which are revealed through my daily actions (or lack thereof).
I could talk about, teach about, and write about how we should love others, and all the while, i never really had to love others... because at the end of the day, my beliefs, participation in religious activities, and church attendance ended up defining who I was and what I believed.
However, I am no longer doing any of that. I am no longer a youth pastor, i haven't spoken to a group in quite sometime, and it's seems like forever since I have written any kind of sermon or been to church on a regular basis. I can no longer define myself by those things. Now I am left with the reality of who I am, what i do, and therefore, what I really believe.
At the end of the day I have to actually ask myself...
do i care about justice? What did i buy today? Do I really believe living simply, and with less things, is the best way to live? Do I really care about the people around the world that my purchases affect? Do I really care about who made the clothes I am wearing and whether or not he/she is older than my four year old daughter?
Did I love others today? How did i treat those i encountered today? Do I really love my enemies?
I can no longer answer These question by the bible teaching on loving others I gave last Wednesday or the sermon on giving to the poor I sat through on Sunday morning, but rather they can only be answered by the choices I make today, and that can be a scary reality.