Who Said Christians Are Perfect?

signs-416444_640_Pixabay no attribute req“You’re not at all like I thought you were.”  Diana*, a member of the singles group in my church said this to me on the night of my going away party.

Confused by her response and frustrated that she had finally dropped the barriers to friendship when it was too late, I asked what she meant.

“Anna* talks about you a lot.  You’re close to her, so I believed her and stayed away from you.   But Penny and Ruth always stood up for you and said they liked you.”

Hurt and shock assaulted my mind. Anna, a single mother, was my friend.  Our children were friends. Yet, Diana, who I always wanted as a friend, sat before me confessing that one of my closest friends had been stabbing me in the back the whole time.  I won’t go into details, but I knew she told the truth.

Yes, I could be angry at Anna. I could be angry at Diana for believing Anna rather than letting my actions speak for myself. But what good would it do? Diana had finally dropped the walls and seen the truth.  Too bad it was too late for us to be close friends.  I was moving in two days.

The apostle Paul writes of this problem in Romans:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25

Over the years, I experienced this truth in action.  I lived it. I suffered from other Christians fighting this war with evil.

Christians are not perfect.

The public holds Christians to a higher standard because of the love our faith proclaims.  They use our failures to label us as frauds.  We should strive to meet that higher standard, but we can never be perfect.  No one can. We can’t measure up to Christ’s perfection.

BUT, and this is a very big but, the blood of Christ saves us.

Consider this, if we were perfect, why would we need saving?  Why would we need the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross?  Why would Jesus instruct us about forgiving our brothers and sisters?

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:21-22

Peter asked Jesus about specifically forgiving his brothers and sisters, in other words, other believers.

Sometimes Christians sin.  Sometimes we mess up.  That is why we need salvation.

I understood this.

Was I hurt?  Sure.  But I knew from personal experience how easy it was to fail.  I forgave Anna and didn’t let distance change the beginning of a new friendship with Diana.

You might wonder why this event belongs in the story of my journey to faith.  For one simple reason, even though this church  embraced me in a way that allowed me to find my faith again, not everyone in the church treated me well.  I could have turned from God because of this, but it’s impossible to expect perfect love from any group, Christian or not. They will make mistakes.  As recently as this past fall, I received an apology from someone who felt they had wronged me thirty years ago.  I told him not to worry.  I had forgiven him.  I did appreciate the apology, though, and I hope he experienced some relief in the knowledge of my forgiveness.

Life is a journey.  We follow the path we choose, but God puts people and events in our lives to show us the right way.  Sometimes we follow His lead, sometimes we don’t.  He always redirects us in hopes that we find the right path, but, thankfully, if we continue to strive to do what is right, Christ is our salvation when we fail.

Hallelujah!

* Names changed

Read more about Barbara’s journey to faith.

The Sacrifice of Christ in the Words of a Poet

Image courtesy of bela_kiefer/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of bela_kiefer/freedigitalphotos.net

One of our church members recited a poem during service last Sunday.  He had known the poet, Mark Meadows, in high school, and he shared how Mark wrote and recited this poem with their church on the day he accepted Christ as his savior.  I listened to the words amazed at their simplicity and beauty and knew I wanted to share it here. I found out how to contact Mark Meadows, and he kindly gave me permission to share his poem on this blog.  Mark, also, indicated that he doesn’t mind if people share it, so feel free to pass this along to others.

All of Me

Oh Lord, here alone I stand
Reaching out to touch your nail scarred hand
I take myself back to the time that you were on that tree
Thinking, Lord, of the love and the blood you shed for me
All alone the cross you did carry
The men, they laughed, drank, and were merry
They didn’t understand, oh Lord, the reason you were here
Only few stood by with their eyes full of fear

They pressed hard that twisted, thorn filled crown
You knelt there Lord and didn’t utter a single sound
They took your hands, oh Lord, and nailed them to the beam
They took your hands, oh Lord, and split them at the seam
With right over left, bent slightly at the knee
They nailed your feet to that heavy, carved out tree
“Some Christ he is,” a man in the crowd was saying
As you hung there Lord, head bowed, you never stopped praying

You said to Mary, before all things could be done
Looking at John, you said “Woman behold thy son”
Your face grew pale and your mouth grew dry
“Just some water, and then I shall die…”
They gave you vinegar, Lord, instead you might drink
It was just about over, your body began to sink
It was black as night, there shone no sun
When you cried to the heavens, “It’s finished – Thy will be done!”

You did it for me, Lord, so that I might live
I owe you my life, Lord, which I gladly give
All you ask of me, Lord, is that I follow close to Thee
No less can I give when I think to the time you suffered on the tree.

Mark Meadows, 1979

at the Saline, Michigan Church of Christ

What Really Happened On The Cross?

I must admit that I floated through my early life oblivious to the true meaning of the cross for Christ.  Yes, I knew he died for me, but I was in my late twenties before I recognized the significance of that sacrifice.  I don’t know whether my Sunday School teachers and ministers just didn’t explain it or if I didn’t understand what I was hearing, but for the first twenty-five years of my life, I thought Christ arose again just to prove he was God’s son.  Yep! That’s what I got out of a life of church attendance.

Then someone recommended I read Max Lucado’s book, Six Hours One Friday.

What was I missing?  A LOT!

Christ was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  The Israelites knew they couldn’t sustain the perfection of a sinless life, so they sacrificed the best of their flocks and harvests in order to appease God, but an animal really couldn’t wipe out all of their sins.  It took Christ to do that.  As he hung on the cross, he cried out:  “My God, my God!  Why have you forsaken me!”  (Matthew 27:46).

What did Jesus mean?  At that point, Christ took the sins of everyone–past, present, and future–on his shoulders.  He became an abomination to God, the Father.  God is holy.  He can’t look upon sin.   For the first time in Christ’s existence, God turned his back on him.

Have you ever entered a house where you expected someone to be home, but you knew the minute you entered the door that no one was there?  You could feel it, couldn’t you?  There’s an absence of presence, of spirit.  It’s a lonely, eerie feeling, especially when you expect that person to be there.  I can’t imagine what the absence of God feels like.  It must be a gazillion times worse than that emptiness we feel when a loved one is gone or far away.  This is the pain and torture that Christ cried out about, not the physical, but the spiritual.

This is hell.

When you understand this, the night he spent praying in the garden before his arrest takes on new meaning.

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:39)

I don’t believe he prayed about the pain and suffering his physical body would go through.  I believe the cup represents his separation from God as Christ bore the sins of the world.   Did specific people and their sins cross his mind at this time?  Did he think about Cain?  Did he remember David and Bathsheba?  Did he consider how Peter would deny him three times before the cock crowed?  Did he think of me?  Did he think of you?

I believe he did, and that’s why he adds, “not as I will, but as you will.”  Even with the yawning, painful separation from God looming in his future, Christ accepted his role in our salvation.  Even when he returned to Peter, James, and John and found them sleeping instead of maintaining watch with him, he still loved them and loved us enough to accept his part in our salvation.

I don’t know that I could accept such a burden when the very people I’m sacrificing my connection to God for are unable to honor one simple request in my hour of need.  Luckily for us, I’m not the one who had to make that choice.

It does remind me that I should sacrifice for others.  Christ came to be a servant, laying his life down for us…but most importantly he took our sins as his own, suffering through hell in order to make us white as snow in God’s eyes.

What does it mean for you?