So, most committed Christians are of good character and have good values. Most Christians I know don't bitch, don't swear, don't smoke, don't condone pre-marital sex, don't get into flings, study hard, etc. But I think it's very important to question how many of these values we put on because of God, and how many were simply passed down to us from our parents. I have some non-Christian friends who have extremely strict values too, things like no smoking and drinking and cursing. And many Christians who grew up in Christian families have these values simply because it's what their family taught them.
I don't respect them for having these values any more than I respect a non-Christian.
I mean, of course it's fantastic; it's just that it doesn't deserve any more admiration and recognition because you are sticking to these values simply because you were brought up that way. It takes as much effort to stick to these values as it takes a non-Christian to stick to their own family values, or a Christian to not stick to those values. The Christians I really admire are those who adopt certain values or choose to turn away from a previous lifestyle because of God.
Is our walk with God comfortable? Is any aspect of our life being challenged by God continually, or are we simply leading the same lifestyle we would've led if we weren't Christians, whether or not the values we'd continue to hold are great ones? Like, I admire Christians who choose not to smoke or swear etc. because it doesn't glorify God. If a Christian made these decisions for God, it's admirable. It's like a boyfriend deciding to stop smoking for his girlfriend. That's admirable. Some of the people in my church / zone used to be gangsters (or gangster-like) and changing their values for God was (or still is) a struggle, but they try, and they change, and it's amazing. In that sense, when people ask "How much has your life really changed since you became a Christian?", it's easier for people who used to lead not-so-ideal lifestyles to see the contrast than people who've grown up in Christian families. But what matters in the end are the inner motives of why you keep certain values or do things, and these might not be outward, and it's perfectly fine.
I guess my main concern with Roman Catholicism (please, please don't beat me up here) is the focus on traditions, rituals, practices and things you have to do as a part of your faith, how 'works' are part of what determines your salvation. Like, my friends who have to go for Mass (and only Mass and not any other Christian / Protestant service) every week, because they have to. I guess it gets dangerous when it becomes something you must do, not because you really want to commune with God again but because it's like your salvation's on the line if you don't go. It ends up placing an emphasis on what you do, and has the danger of becoming about you and not God. It ends up placing an emphasis on the things you do and not on the relationship with God born out of love itself.
Like, with values and things that I feel I should or shouldn't do, I don't want to adopt them because I feel like I have to in order to keep my salvation. That is an oppressive fear, not born out of love. I want to keep certain values and try to stop doing certain things because I want to please God, not hurt him even more, and show Him that I'm committed to making my relationship with Him work, too. A relationship is two-way, and while God tries to show me who He is, I want to show God that I'm committed to being closer to Him, too. It shouldn't be a 'I cannot do this because God might let go of my salvation' thing. He's a Father. Fathers don't cut off our kinship when we do things that displease them. But it ought to be about wanting to keep that relationship close.
For Christians who do things like go to church or pray or read the Bible simply out of personal rituals, or out of fear that not doing it will lead to God cutting off their salvation, I see it simply as a blind following of religion no different from other religions. It's important to keep these practices to remain in close communion with God, but it's the purpose behind why you do it that matters. It's not a motion you have to go through. It's not a dry religion. It's a relationship. It's wanting to love and talk to God, because of who He is. Sometimes I have to drag myself to church or to read the Bible, but I don't drag myself saying "I have to do this, if not God might cut me off from my salvation". It's more like "God, I'll do this for God. God, I'm doing this for You, won't You speak to me today." I don't fear that my salvation will be cut off. I fear that my relationship with God will run dry.
Okay, I'm typing this in bible school, things I've been thinking about for a few weeks now, but just felt like typing now because we're talking about different Christian beliefs and stuff and I was reminded of all this. But I'm probably being incoherent or phrasing things weirdly with the possibility of being misunderstood and stuff so I'll check back later.