I began college at a liberal arts college, and I expected an "open minded" (read: liberal) environment of free thinkers. Instead I was surrounded by a lot of conservative Christians, and while I wasn't opposed to Christianity (or any other religion), I was agnostic--I didn't know if there was a God and didn't care to take the time to figure it out.
And as I observed those around me and their "virgin clubs," refusal to discuss the Bible in class (b/c it wasn't "literature to be discussed and dissected"), objections to required reading that referenced premarital sex, and the like, I determined that Christianity was about what I was not allowed to do. Not surprisingly it was unappealing to me, and I was certain that if I was ever going to seriously consider Christianity I needed to wait at least until I was at least out of college (b/c sex, drinking, etc. were entirely too fun).
I'm pretty sure it never occurred to me that Christianity isn't about me (no surprise there...I was as self-centered then as I am now)--that the Bible isn't about me or a set of moral principles I need to follow to be an adherent of the faith. As Tim Keller points out--there are only two ways to read the Bible: either as basically being about me or about Jesus. When I read it through the lense of being about me it can be boiled down to what I must do, and "as only principles of living, the Bible is a crushing burden." It's just an exhausting list of things I should and should not do.
Years later I slowly realized that the Bible isn't about me or what I must do; it's the story of what Jesus has done. "The Bible is not primarily a 'book of virtues.' It is the story of how God is redeeming us through Jesus Christ." As now that I read Scripture through this perspective, a weight is lifted. I'm so overcome by Christ's generosity--giving up everything for me on the cross--that I want to give myself, my money, and my time away. And as I reflect on His forgiveness and grace, I want to extend it to others. But in order to receive God's acceptance I don't have to do those things. Instead the gospel is "I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ--therefore I obey."
Thus one of my wishes for those who aren't Christians is that they would at least understand what the gospel is--and not reject it as I did on the basis of a false premise. Christianity isn't morality. Christianity isn't about you or me. Grace cannot be earned. You don't have to do anything except believe (which I know isn't easy...it took years for me to take that leap of faith).
If you're interested in a fairly short summary of the gospel (133 short pages), check out The Prodigal God.
*All of the quotes are from Tim Keller ("Gospel Christianity" Bible study and The Prodigal God).
p.s. I'm grateful for two days of sunshine, being less sick today than yesterday, new songs, a fun Super Bowl party with friends, new recipes, and getting to see my students at PTM last week.