It’s funny. People who know me know that I’m not a perfect Christian.
Then again, who is, right?
Still, I’ve noticed some disturbing trends among young people – that aside from a complete lack of understanding the deep truths of the Christian faith, there seems to be a habit among us to dehumanize it. That authentic faith and witness can only be exemplified by those ‘holier-than-thou’ pure personalities who only speak about God and the Bible and avoid hanging out with ‘sinners.’ That somehow, the joys of our fleshly existence is sinful in the eyes of God. That we should isolate ourselves from these ‘evils’ and embrace a morally upright, Christian bubble.
The problem I have with this growing mentality is simple – it isn’t biblical and suffice to say, borders on fundamentalism. Here’s a news flash – we’re ALL sinners!
I say this firstly because as coloured and sinful as my life and that of many other Christians has been, people can’t seem to differentiate between the message spoken, and the flawed vessel from which it comes out of. That if we don’t fit the mould, if we don’t look the part, then what we say can’t be of any significant spiritual importance. Granted, Christian witness is most effective when it is a lived and exemplified witness but nonetheless, it is not our place to limit what God can do and how He chooses to do it. Throughout human history, God has used flawed instruments of creation at times to deliver His message. Just ask King David or better yet, the Apostle Paul. That is not to suggest that we ought to be content nor tolerate a lifestyle of complacent sinning but rather, it should open our eyes to the wider reality of God’s salvific work – ‘warts and all’, God has chosen us to do His bidding. So while being mindful of the messenger’s sins (and of our own), let’s not let this negate the potential for God to use that person and ourselves.
Secondly, we often look to these false standards of Christian conversion to inform our own relationship with God. That is dangerous ground for the ill-informed. I’ve met a lot of people who say things like, “I don’t want to go to church because I’ve been a hypocrite” or “not until I get my life sorted out” etc etc…Insert you’re own reason here.
Church is not an assembly for perfect people – it’s a hospital for sinners. You, me, everyone. Whether you’re ‘lukewarm’, a ‘backslider’ or whatever you like to accuse yourself of, God is like the joyful father Christ so vividly described in the parable of the Prodigal Son. He waits for us to come to Him and despite all our weaknesses, stands with open arms, yearning to embrace us if we’d but only turn from the destructive path of sin and excess, and run to Him. This is the standard we must relate to God with, not our own. Our standards of what constitutes when we can go to church will never match up to God’s infinitely perfect standard, so remove those preconceived ideas and embrace the mould that Jesus has already given us. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal summarised this beautifully;
“Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.”
In short, remember these key points;
- God is Sovereign: He uses who and what He pleases to carry out His mission. Whether it’s a corrupt cleric, a boring minister, a child or even someone we dislike, look for what God is saying to us in these flawed instruments and remember – we are flawed instruments too, so let’s not be too quick to judge!
- God is Loving: Whatever circumstance we’re in, God is the loving Father of the parable – Had the prodigal son tried to fix things on his own away from his father, he would have almost certainly died feeding those pigs. Run to him, not away from him.
I’ll leave you two passages of scripture to reflect upon, one from Luke’s Gospel and another from Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth;
“To the weak I became weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22)
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Lk 15:11-32)