Elder Insights – November 7th, 2016

elders04

elders04

The Perfection Game

Nothing seems to stress Christians as much as realizing we’re not perfect people.  We’re supposed to be–right?  Isn’t the very definition of “Christian” this:  people who consistently do the right thing, love everyone they meet, affirm their neighbor’s choices, keep their lawn groomed, raise nice children, volunteer at school, keep a clean car, and religiously avoid the mortal sins of bad breath, body odor, and blemishes?  Aren’t we people who never have carnal thoughts, don’t indulge in bad habits, don’t lose our temper and never, never, never say a bad word about someone else?  Are we not incessantly cheerful, bubbling over with enthusiasm and eternally hopeful?  We’re good Christians – eh?

Maybe.  But even when we’re not, we pretend to be.  We learn to clean up nicely, both in appearance and behavior, so our godly facade remains intact.  We master ways and means to reveal our sincerity and our concern for others.  We take pride in our humility.  God-speak replaces English as our primary language (at least on Sundays).  We tune our choices in social settings and entertainment to match accepted church norms (depending, of course, on who we’re with).  We wrap the deficiencies of our lives in a blanket of deception and smile broadly while our hearts ache.  We hide who we really are and venture into public safely encased in a persona of our own making.  Like avatars in a video game, we choose our appearance and personality, and try to live our lives accordingly.

Our expectations for ourselves are only outpaced by our expectations for others.  We know what “good Christians” look like and we expect our church-mates to be like that.  For those thrust into leadership positions, the stakes are even higher.  We know they’re human but we’re always ready to pounce should they actually act that way.

It’s all a game, isn’t it?  Be honest–if others could pull back the curtain for a moment, would the “real” you be a surprise?

Here’s some good news.  It’s time to relax.  For starters, you’re probably not fooling many people, anyway.  More importantly, you don’t need to.  From God’s perspective, our own perfection was never the issue.  Quite the opposite.  Our faith is all about our imperfections.  We’re not Christians because we’re good.  We’re Christians because we’re so persistently bad only Jesus’ death on the cross could save us.  Sinfulness is both our human birthright and our natural inclination and it will be with us till death do us part.  We all instinctively know this, so why do we pretend otherwise?

The true picture of a Christian is not some spiritual super-hero gliding through the trials of life impervious to the pitfalls of mere mortals.  In reality, every day is a challenge and every day we fail.  All of us sin and we all fall short of God’s glory.  Yet God still loves us.  He loves us, of course, because of who his is.  But he also loves us because he knows who we are – who we really are.  We are people in process.

Jesus draws those outside the faith into a relationship with himself.  He draws those within the faith to a closer relationship.  Eventually we’ll be like him forever.  But for now, he knows we’re incomplete.  He knows the transformation to Christ-likeness is not done.  He knows we stumble.  He also knows we’re forgiven.

Our love should be like his.  It should be strong enough to carry us through times when we or others  fail.  It should have room for understanding and forgiveness.  Our love should be full of compassion and grace and mercy.  It should transcend our own shame and keep us from shaming others.  It should allow us to be honest with each other–honest enough to end the perfection game once and for all.

What others need to see in us is not perfect people.  They need to see transparent people–people honest about our failures and open about our needs.  Only then will they clearly see the greatness of God’s mercy and the glory of his grace.

Elder Paul Wegner

FBCofER

Leave a Comment