Saturday, October 13, 2012

Not Perfect; Just Forgiven

I often see bumper stickers and t-shirts with the phrase: Christians aren’t perfect; just forgiven.

Frequently, one will hear the phrase, “Well, I’m only human…” At times I get the impression that it is an excuse to act or respond a certain way.

Someone once asked me this question: How do you deal with and respond to people who think that because we are Christians we should be perfect?

I believe that my Authority, the Bible, teaches that I should simply respond with an apology if they feel I have offended them. Depending on the situation, at some point I may be able to quietly clarify that being a Christian doesn't automatically make me perfect, but I would not even say that, if that statement will merely be perceived as a fight.

“Being human” does not make it okay to do wrong--even with good intentions. And I don’t know about you, but I always want to be judged by my good intentions! ☺ My "humanity" does not excuse me automatically, and it does not exempt me from apologies, even when the other person owes me an apology! Jesus said to turn the other cheek to those who hurt us. I believe this could be applied to word barrages as well. The longer I "live the difference," not retaliating, but humbly admitting my wrong, even asking forgiveness if I were perceived as wrong, or misunderstood, the better I am able to reach people and build relationships. God keeps the books. He knows if I did wrong on purpose or if it was an honest mistake.

If it's someone with whom I am in close relationship, there may come a point when I would need to pull back a bit from them if they continue. However, I would bathe that in prayer for a LONG time before making such a decision. I do not believe the Bible teaches that we should arbitrarily cut people out of our lives. That's not what Jesus did; that's now how He lived. We can clearly see that in the Gospels.

If it's a marital relationship that is verbally abusive, that's another ballgame, but the Bible still obviously applies. (*See the note at the end of this post.) I am told to follow Jesus' example. When He was reviled (criticized, berated, etc.), He did not retaliate with criticism or word barrages.

I Peter 2:20 says, “For what glory [is it], if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer [for it], ye take it patiently, this [is] acceptable with God.”

He's saying, so what if I am criticised or mistreated for real failures and I take it patiently? But if I am doing right and I suffer for it, that is what is really pleasing—“acceptable”—to God!

 This is only accomplished by living by Jesus' faith (Galatians 2:20), yielding myself to His Holy Spirit, so that He lives through me. Humanly, I cannot do this. He can do this through me, His yielded vessel! (For more on this, read The Life That Wins by Watchman Nee. I highly recommend lots of reading on this topic!)

Check out the next few verses: For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 
(I Peter 2:21).

He says, this is what you were called to: to follow Christ, live as He lived.

Well, how did He live?

Verse 22: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (I Peter 2:22). 

He says, Christ didn't commit sin at all, did not sin with his mouth/words.

Verse 23: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed [himself] to him that judgeth righteously: 
(I Peter 2:23).

Then I, as Jesus did, am to commit myself to the Person Who righteously judges everything: God. He keeps the records, and He can set things straight in His own time. Sometimes He wants me to learn a little humility. Always He seeks to conform me to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29), which is my calling and purpose in life (Romans 8:28)!

Realizing my purpose and living free to yield to the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit living inside of me is a wonderful life! It is so freeing to realize I don't have to retaliate when someone criticizes or attacks me. I don't have to stew inside. My liberty in Christ Jesus allows me to simply talk to my Father about it, committing it all to Him, the Righteous Judge. He is always fair, and to top it off, He loves me! ☺

*Note: There are certain situations, such as ongoing physical or mental abuse, that may require third party interventions. Matthew 18 teaches that if someone has something against me (or perceives they do, and in turn becomes abusive), I should first try to resolve it between the two of us. If that does not work, Matthew teaches me to take a fellow Christian with me to confront the abusive person. If that does not resolve the issue, I would need to take it to the church leadership, and possibly the church body, per the pastor’s decision in the matter.

If it is an abusive dating/courtship relationship, I believe one should run as fast as possible in the other direction! Marriage will only intensify the issues!

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