At 22 years old, I walked into a little church in Spokane, Washington and said yes to Jesus being in my life. I said yes to my sins being forgiven. I said yes to God as my Father – no small feat that considering where I was at the time. I said yes to…
God is perfect. I am not. I never have been. Not before that July day in 1990 nor since. But, that day in July set me on a path of perfectionism because, somehow, I thought that if God was perfect then there was some sort of perfection transference.
My mind thought that Jesus Christ is perfect so anyone who lets Him into their lives is perfect too. No problems. No discord. No dysfunction. No pain. No failure.
I thought Christians were perfect.
Lord, have mercy.
Scrolling through my Twitter timeline today, I came across this tweet from Christian artist, Lecrae. Such a meaty topic for Christians today, I clicked on the thread to see more. His next tweet mentioned another person, Derek Minor.
What I read next was an AMEN!
The thread continued…
I cannot say AMEN loud or often enough!!!!!!!
Everything that young man said right there is what I thought for most of my Christian life. Yes, church and/or Christian leaders are held to a higher responsibility. They are a representation of God, after all, when the speak or sing.
But, they are still just people like you and me.
Keeping it real here, folks. That thinking has messed me up left, right, up, down and inside out so many times. It permeated my parenting, my marriage – (in that order because I was a parent before becoming a wife), my work life and even my church life.
At times, I thought I was better than others. At times, I thought my ways of doing things were the right way because I was a Christian, right?
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have been hurt by Christians, including church leadership. Pride, arrogance, abandonment, manipulation, lack of communication, favoritism, messiah complex – each one, I have experienced in my “Christian life”.
I was so hurt and broken by the things I saw, I turned my back on church. One of these days I’ll speak publicly on my experiences, in depth. For now, I will say that the things that happened nearly destroyed me.
God has been piecing me back together as quickly as I let Him. Some might argue that, “God can do anything”. Well, yes, but God will NOT push Himself on anyone. We allow Him to move in our lives. We allow Him access by what we say and do. He could have moved quicker, but He knows me better than I know myself. He knows how I think and act. He wanted that invitation from me.
Forgiveness is a process. God wasn’t going to beat me over the head by saying, “I COMMAND YOU TO FORGIVE THEM”. No. Throughout this process, He’s teaching me to listen, wait, learn and love.
Our human nature wants satisfaction or justification. We want to know that those who hurt us will get what’s coming to them. We want them to grovel and beg for forgiveness. We want them to pay…we want justice. Godly justice, but justice nonetheless.
How many know that it doesn’t always work out that way?
Currently, I am working on another post about humility. In it, I say this:
The opposite of self-righteousness is humility.Sunny Cadwallader
I won’t go too into it here, but humility ties into the very essence of “being” a Christian. Without humility, there is no way I could have forgiven my father and been by his side as he took his last breath on earth (See: No More Prayers to Pray).
There is no humility in human perfection standards. But, please hear me clearly — Humility isn’t passive. Humility is powerful.
Jesus walked with humility, but He knew the right times to speak up. He knew the right things to say. And, He knew when to (pardon me, Lord) shut up and pray.
Every day I am knee deep in social media. What social media has done is given a public voice to anyone with access. We are able to find others who are like-minded and are empowered even more to say things we may not normally say face-to-face.
There’s an old saying, “power corrupts”. I would add that power reveals the things that’s in a person’s heart. Luke 6:45 says,
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.Luke 6:45 (NIV)
Many of our social media posts display a level of self-righteousness within us that we are sometimes oblivious to. The way we think is “right” so we must tell others how right we are and how wrong they are.
One thing quarantine life wrought is the inability to speak to each other face-to-face. Yes, there was Zoom or Google Meet or any of the other video meeting platforms that enabled “communication”, but it wasn’t quite the same. So, we were left with words on social platforms.
I look back on my early days on social media…or even on message boards….in the early 2000’s and how self-righteous – self-assured, I would call it – I sounded. I was right and everyone else was wrong. I could see things clearly where others could not. I had insight while others….you know….they didn’t.
How arrogant I was and, admittedly, I still can be.
During the course of writing this post, I have had to confront my own self-righteousness. Thus, the little detour above into self-righteous and humility talk.
Even before a single letter was typed, this post has been on my mind for a long time. Throughout this process, I found myself becoming critical of others followed by trying to understand where they are coming from. I’ve had to ask God to forgive me multiple times for my attitude.
Even today, I saw a post by someone that I know came from a place of pain and hurt, but it also sounded very self-righteous. They are a Christian just like me.
And there is the question: What is a Christian?
In simplest terms, as many see it, it is a person of faith in God. Further, a Christian is a person who is a follower of Jesus Christ. They are one who recognizes that God is the creator of all things. They recognize God as a triune being – Father, Son and Spirit. God is perfect and creation was perfect, including man, Adam.
Adam was created in God’s image and that includes Adam’s free will. Adam chose a different path than God desired and thus, sin entered the world that God created. Sin has been with us ever since.
Sin causes us (humanity) to be separated from God. Remember, God is perfect. He is also holy (pure). That separation hinders our relationship with God. In order to make a way for us to have that relationship not only in the here and now, but for all eternity, God gave his son (John 3:16), Jesus, for us to believe in.
Those who know Jesus, know God.
Being a “Christian” shouldn’t just be in name only. I didn’t become a Christian until my early 20’s. I didn’t grow up in church. My extent of church was a Mexican wedding or funeral in a Catholic setting. There was never talk about relationship with God to my knowledge.
It wasn’t until I was a single mom alone in a Washington city that I recognized the need for that relationship. I was broken and rejected. Pain was my partner. I was confused about what I was doing, who I was and where I was supposed to be. Raise a child? Incapable.
Then someone introduced me to Jesus. To God. To the Holy Spirit. They shared with me how much God loved me. They shared with me that all of the pain and hurt and shame I had been carrying around with me my whole life, God could take care of that. He forgave me of all the things I had done wrong to myself and others. He, in essence, was giving me a clean slate.
Since then, it hasn’t been all rainbows and lollipops. I haven’t been perfect like God, like Jesus, like the Holy Spirit. I wish, but I am, after all, still a human being much like Adam, with a free will.
That free will allows us to make our own choices. Whether it is believing in God or how we treat others, it’s all about free will.
Only Jesus Christ was perfect. Anyone who calls themselves a Christian never will be on this earth. Yet, I readily admit that there were times when I thought I was perfect. There were times when I thought other Christians were perfect, including pastors and church leaders.
But they weren’t. They aren’t. They never will be.
So, if a Christian, including church leaders, isn’t perfect, what exactly is a Christian?
A Christian is just a person like you. We struggle. We deal with fear and anxiety brought on by the world’s happenings globally or our own local “world”. We can have unresolved pain and anger. We can walk in unforgiveness. We can be tempted by fame, money, lust and status. We have been broken, beaten, abused, manipulated, cheated on, lied to and more, again and again and again.
Yet, we too have treated others similarly.
We have taken our fears and anxieties out on others because we don’t know how to deal with the happenings of the worlds we live in. We have caused pain and made others angry. We haven’t been forgiven by those we’ve hurt. We tempt with fame, money, lust and status. We have broken, beaten, abused, manipulated, cheated on and lied to others again and again and again.
Sometimes we take it further.
We judge and point the finger at the inadequacies of others. We applaud when our opponent falls. We mock others we don’t understand or disagree with.
But not always.
See, the beauty of a relationship with God is exactly that. We have a relationship with Him, meaning we can talk with Him anywhere about what’s going on inside of us. Our thoughts, emotions, actions, He wants to hear about it from our side of things. He wants to walk us through the process of becoming like Jesus.
We do that by reading the Bible, praying (two-way communicating with God), singing songs of praise and worship to Him, attending church (assembling with other Christians) and serving. Serving inside or outside of the church. Organized serving or when opportunity presents itself.
That’s the ideal.
The only way to do that is through humility.
Humility is the key to being a Christian.
We choose less of our ways and more of God’s ways. It doesn’t mean we are meek and mild. It means we must spend time with God to know those ways of His and as we do, He will lead us to love and serve others.
My spiritual mama and mentor Cheryl Salem once said, “Trust God. Love people.” When Jesus was talking with His disciples, He said,
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:34-35 (NIV)
Maybe that’s it in a nutshell. A Christian is someone who trusts God – a trust that continually grows through the ups and downs of life, including failure. And, a Christian is someone who loves people – we serve, love and pray for others, even if they are people who have hurt or betrayed us, or if they are completely opposite ideologically.
We don’t always get it right because we are human after all.
But we know the One who can help us get it right.
And His name is Jesus.