5 Things You Should Know Before Becoming a Christian | Sojourners

5 Things You Should Know Before Becoming a Christian

People finding Christianity. Image courtesy Digital Storm/shutterstock.com
People finding Christianity. Image courtesy Digital Storm/shutterstock.com

Few things are presented more inaccurately than Christianity. Often marketed through evangelism as a joyful, peaceful, loving, easy way to overcome the hardships of this world, in reality practicing Christianity is far more grueling than many pastors, churches, theologians, and Christian institutions make it out to be.

Christianity isn’t meant to be a form of escapism, a safety net, or a crutch. Rather, following Jesus means bravely sacrificing yourself for the love of humanity, becoming nothing for the sake of others.

So instead of preparing people for failure, impossible expectations, disappointment, and false illusions, here are five things everyone should know before becoming a Christian:

1) Christ is perfect but “Christianity” is not. 

Don’t mistake Christian culture for God—they aren’t the same thing. Churches, pastors, theologians, and other believers will inevitably fail you, but Jesus never will.

2) It’s OK to change your beliefs.

You’ll never have Christianity fully figured out. You won’t have an answer for everything. Theology is a journey—a “pilgrim’s progress.” Life, relationships, and experiences form, shape, and change the way you see, experience, and understand God. The disciples didn’t understand God much of the time, and you probably won’t either.

3) Christianity isn’t easy.

It doesn’t magically fix things, or make you more popular, wealthy, or healthy. It’s not a form of escapism but a lifelong process of dedication, service, sacrifice, and humbly loving others. It’s very, very, very hard, and not for the faint of heart.

4) Christianity is complex.

Nobody believes the same thing. There are hundreds of denominations. Doctrines, practices, and traditions are as varied as the people that represent them. This diversity of faith should be appreciated and celebrated. The goal of Christianity isn’t conformity, but an honest and intimate relationship with God.

5) Christianity is ultimately about loving God and loving others.

It should never be co-opted by a political movement, a religious institution, gaining power, obtaining control, spreading influence, enforcing laws, or becoming rich and famous. It’s about a relationship with God. Never let anything supersede this.

Accepting these five realities will help you face the trials and disappointments that will inevitably challenge your faith. Realistic expectations prevent burnout and allow us to see things for what they really are.

Christianity is about seeking the truth, and the sooner we embrace it the faster we’ll be able to authentically love God and the world around us. 

Stephen Mattson blogs at stephenjmattson.com. He's contributed for Relevant Magazine, Redletterchristians.org , and studied Youth Ministry at the Moody Bible Institute. He is now on staff at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.

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