Or Don’t Trip … He Ain’t Through With You Yet
While I was thinking through what I was going to say about “The Story of (My) Christianity”, I was left with a bunch of issues that I struggled with. It’s the whole idea of God sending us to be His ambassadors and then seemingly not being able to equip us adequately for the job. I see it in my church. I see it in my life. I see it in my heart. Shouldn’t there be a more demonstrable difference between “us” and “them”? Why are we still so broken?
A friend of mine put it this way: “If God is to be the all powerful diety he is, why does he not do more to change us when we confess his Lordship over our lives? Yeah, yeah, free will and all that, but still what are we saying when we are calling him “Lord”? Isn’t part of that an invitation for Him to change us? Sure, it takes work on our part, but I could use some help and, if you believe the surveys, so does everyone else. When I look at the Christian community, I see epic fail and it’s really hard for me to just say that it’s all our fault. If we are to be representing Him, and if we are calling Him the Lord of our lives, then I would think we would get more help…and if He isn’t then how can we say the blame is all on us?”
We were created in the image of God and declared “good”. Good. We forget that part of things, that as image-bearers, we have inherent worth. We don’t always live up to that potential, what we were created to be. We could look at our place in the greater scheme of things as a matter of us not being able to save ourselves, but that’s not the whole story. We’re invited into a way of life, a life of transformation. We don’t have to remain as we are, mired in the mess of our lives. We can seek a path of wholeness, become humans to be restored in all the dimensions of humanity.
Probably points more to our misunderstanding of God and our relationship with him. We don’t have to be perfect to be dispensers of God’s grace. Martin Luther spoke of Christians as being simultaneously saints and sinners. It has taken me quite a while to understand that God’s not interested in fixed vessels. We have it in our heads that we need to be perfect, have our act together, be the “best” representatives that we can be because how else can we be used by God.
This idea of perfection has crippled my spiritual walk. The Bible seems to not only demand perfection, but it seems to imply that perfection is attainable now. Then someone pointed out to me that I had a screwed up view of “perfection.” When we read the word “perfection” through our modern mindset, we see the Greek ideal of perfection. We can’t attain that. Yet for most of my spiritual life, I was tormented by the guilt of failure because I couldn’t reach this goal of perfection. My life was littered with seemingly endless failures. But when you read perfection more through the eyes of the original audience, you find the Hebrew idea of wholeness. Being complete is something that we can attain.
We are no more immune to sin and temptation than our neighbor, as much as I (and many in the churches) would like to believe otherwise. We’re sick and we need resurrection, divine healing. He calls us to join with Him, to be set free of the lives we’re imprisoned in into a new world, a new way of living. In our imperfection, in our brokenness, we know each other’s pain and weakness—without room for judgment—and can best be there for one another. We can be the consoling arms of God for one another.
Our actions define our eternity. The strongest, most impactful message you can have about your faith is the one we speak with our lives. If we aren’t living it out, it invalidates anything we have to say on the subject. If what we say and how we live don’t match, we’ve probably already lost the battle. There’s the heart of my struggle. I’ve tried to follow Jesus and it’s hard. There’s nothing simple about it. It’s paradoxical. It’s counter-intuitive. Often I feel as if I know the truth, but have no experience of its reality or fail to fully live it out.
God is engaged in a gentle dance with us, wooing us to Him not wanting to force Himself on us, but rather wanting us to freely choose to love Him; to join with His redemptive mission for each other and for creation. He chooses to work through a failed people for reasons we may never understand. We are cracked vessels, works in progress. God doesn’t give up on us … we give up on ourselves. We aren’t defined by our failings and stumbling. We’re defined by how we get back up, bruised knees and all, dust ourselves off, and keep on our journey.