“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.
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.
* Names changed
Read more about Barbara’s journey to faith.