“Well, if she was really a Christian…”
Have you ever said those words? Or nodded in agreement when someone else spoke them? Maybe you knew there was a sting of untruth to the statement but didn’t find your voice to contradict the error in that train of thought.
I’ve heard phrases like this a lot lately. It seems that all of the Christian world is standing in their corner, gloves in hand and ready to be put on at a moment’s notice in order to “defend the faith,” or maybe just defend their current version of it.
After twenty five years of walking with Jesus, some years much better than others, I am blindsided by the marrow-slicing Word of God now more than ever. I once believed I had a decent handle on theology. I “got” grace, “understood” the love of the Father, and knew pretty well who I was in Christ. At least compared to the previous version of me…
As I matured in faith, God slowly tore away things in my life that were not conducive to a healthy relationship with Him. But He didn’t do it all at once. It was gradual. Sometimes painful, sometimes almost unnoticed. But always, behind the scenes, He was (and is) at work.
I came into relationship with Jesus at the age of 21. I arrived in the family of God with baggage. Lots of it. Though I knew God loved me, I struggled to believe He was pleased with me. My performance was so often sketchy, tripping and falling on the path as I worked to figure out who I was and where I belonged.
I. Me. In my strength and limited understanding.
Sounds a bit like slavery, doesn’t it? Trying to earn my keep? Hoping to get a smile and a nod from my Master? Cringing and hiding when I fell because I was still so weak in many important areas and shouldn’t “this” have not been a struggle by now?
I would pull myself back up and follow hard after Jesus until the next roadblock, then I would fall and doubt and worry and fear and sin.
The flesh just loves a good roadblock, as does the judgy-churchy world we live in.
“She did what? Surely not. She’s supposedly a Christian. Christians don’t do that.”
I heard a story recently about a celebrity, well-known for x-rated lyrics and a less-than-stellar lifestyle (to put it mildly) who made a Gospel album. The outcry in the “christian” world was less than supportive. One critic even doubted that this man’s name and “gospel” should even be used in the same sentence.
Tell me why? Tell me where God says I have to be cleaned up and sinless before I can fall at the feet of Jesus! Show me where He promises to instantly and completely fix all of my issues at the moment of salvation? I’ll wait…
You see, God is at work. In you, in me, in the most dark and hardened hearts. He knows we are going to backslide. He is not surprised by our struggles! But He doesn’t stop molding and shaping us into who we already are in Christ.
Do you see that? In the Kingdom of God we are who we will be! It’s all being woven together, this beautiful tapestry of grace. Slowly the colors are replacing the dark stains and light is displacing the shadows. One by one, He fills in the holes in my life and calls me His daughter. His perfected child.
In Jesus I am made new. (Romans 4:24, Romans 5:1-2, Romans 6:6) The power of sin has been dismantled. Will I have seasons of weakness where I forget that I am dead to sin and alive in Christ? As long as I am on this earth, the answer is yes. But my struggle changes nothing regarding the fact of who I am and who you are. I can stand before Jesus with my face lifted up, eyes meeting His, not because of what I have done but because of what HE DID! When I and other believers do things that aren’t “Christian” it changes NOTHING about who we are. Do you sense the freedom in that? Failure is part of the struggle, but it never defines who we are. We are defined by the finished work of the cross.
That is why I can rejoice when a man who once defied everything God says is right and good makes a gospel album. That is why I can believe that my children’s salvation is secure even when they resist and rebel. And that is why I can sleep at night after going to the Lord in repentance because I know His love for me is based on one thing. Not my performance, not my obedience, not which church I go to or what Bible study I am currently involved in. God’s love for me, and for you, is based on the fact that I am forever and irrevocably united with His Son. In that knowledge I can rest and I can thrive and I can fail without fear. In that knowledge I can encourage my brothers and sisters who are newer in their walk with Christ by celebrating each step forward instead of focusing on their past.
Because I sure wouldn’t want anyone focusing on mine.