24 Jul 2015
Living the Christian life is like playing a musical instrument; or it’s like playing a sport; or it’s like doing anything that takes practice to get good at it. In the 3rd Century, the writer Tertullian said that “Christians are not born; they’re made.” And he’s right about that. If we want to be Christian, we have to be shaped into one. And if we want to be a good Christian, it takes practice, and it takes work.
In the world of music, we have scales and fingerings and all sorts of standard practices to help us become a good musician. In the field of sports, we have nutritional guidelines, warm-up and stretching routines, and guidelines to follow to play the game well. And in our Christian, we have the law of God: the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the two Great Commandments to love God and our neighbor, and—most especially—we have the examples of the saints and the life of Jesus Christ to guide us.
But, just like in music and sports and other endeavors, if we want to be a good Christian, we have to practice and apply the rules we learn from Jesus our Teacher. When I go to a concert and hear a pianist play, I don’t want to hear a display of technical abilities—I want to hear music. And when we run into other Christians, we’re less interested in their private devotions and how often they go to confession, and we’re more interested in whether or not they’re a genuinely loving, firm, and forgiving person.
But behind that really good Christian man or woman is a certain amount of discipline in the faith. Behind a really good musical performance is a disciplined musician who practices for hours and hours, and days and for their whole lives. And what we discipline ourselves to follow are the guidelines—be it music, or sports, or raising a family, or interacting with friends, or living the Christian life—we use the guidelines given us as a tool to help us live.
We don’t follow the law of God for the sake of following the law. We give ourselves over to the guidance of God’s law and wisdom so that we can live. Our Christian life can be like a musical performance, where all anyone sees is a person alive with the Spirit of Christ. But such a performance—such a life—doesn’t happen by accident. As Tertullian said, “Christians are not born, they’re made."
And so, today, let’s renew our intention to be a disciplined disciple of Christ, who is the Master at this game we call “life.”