By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
In the sport of rodeo, the term gunsel gets used to describe that person who wants everyone to know hes’ a cowboy by walking around the arena an hour before the show with his chaps and spurs on or he still has his spurs on at McDonald’s after the show. But he also gets one or two-jumped when his bull or bronc leaves the chute or hold on to the gate and lets go on his way out.
For a Christian, while it still can be about calling attention to himself, it can be a little less about that and more about doing the things he thinks makes him a Christian without ever understanding what it means to have a real, life-changing relationship with Jesus.
We see him praying before the rodeo, he has a cross around his neck and a tattoo of a Bible verse on his forearm.
These things aren’t wrong when they are just part of a person who is genuinely living out his faith but there’s a problem when that’s the beginning and the end of the cowboy’s faith. He never opens his Bible to learn from it and never applies a lesson he hears at cowboy church. Nothing in his life shows that he is becoming more like Jesus, which is evidence that our salvation is real, when our life is being transformed.
James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
James is teaching us how foolish it is to know what scripture teaches us and then to do nothing about it. He is stressing how important it is to actually live out what the Bible teaches.
It’s important to understand this doesn’t earn us anything from God. To be saved, we have to recognize who Jesus was as the Son of God and that he died on the cross to take the punishment that is meant for our sin. When we understand we’re all sinners and that God cannot allow us into his presence as sinners, we can be made right with him by confessing we know we have sin in our lives, believing what Jesus did on the cross for us to take the punishment meant for us, and asking to be forgiven.
It’s out of understanding and thankfulness for what Jesus did for us that we want to become more like Jesus and to do that, we do what James is saying and become doers of the word, living out what the Bible teaches.
Jesus called out the religious leaders at the time, known as Pharisees, who were making a show of their faith by carrying out actions that called attention to themselves while ignoring acting in important ways towards others that for us, become ways of showing Jesus to an unbelieving world.
Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
Instead of showing God’s love to others, they were becoming a road block getting in the way of people who were discovering Jesus was teaching a new way of living out their faith in God that allowed everyone to become closer to Him.
To just walk around wearing crosses and Bible verse tattoos and nothing more doesn’t help anyone come to a saving faith in Jesus. It just makes us Christian gunsels.