We all have these experiences. Living, watching or interacting with self-professed Christ lovers, who indulge in things and behaviors contrary to what we’d expect of them.
We also have these experiences as Christ lovers, whereby we are judged on a higher scale than others, much to our chagrin.
We may be tired of explaining that believing in Christ does not exempt us from worldly troubles; however, there is something to be said about the expectations surrounding us. We did in fact, profess to be followers of Christ, and fashion most of our decisions based on our faith.
We are unable to claim a position and not be willing to defend it. What is the best defense against societal expectations of a practicing Christian? Living and acting as one. This is where the discussion gets tricky. How does one successfully live as a witnessing Christian? This essay will examine an aspect of this discourse, namely self-reflection and asking for help.
To have an intimate relationship with Christ involves being naked. This means looking at ourselves as we are, and first accepting our inherent weaknesses. We all have these. We may not be physically, emotionally or psychologically addicted to substances, but we have things we tend to forget about such as being unkind, demanding, domineering, prideful, vindictive and bitter amongst others.
These elements are weaknesses that operate to undermine our self and other worth. No matter how we choose to view various undesirable behaviors, we must always remember that there is a lesson for us. For example, while we watch and comment in disdain about our children’s lack of ambition, we ignore our own influencing factor in their upbringing that served to reinforce this trait in them.
It is easy to look at others and pick out their weaknesses, while evading our own which stand out clearly in those we have chosen to look at. It is this simple; unless one feels judged one does not judge. Unless one feels inferior one has no need to enforce power, and unless one has a humanistic approach to struggle and pain, one is unable to comprehend its application to self and others. A good rule of thumb is to examine the qualities we most hate and admire in others, and recognize those same qualities in us.
Once we are willing to have an ongoing relationship with our Lord undress is going to happen. We are unable to step up to our Father and state that we desire to know Him better, if He can ignore some undesirable things about us. We are also unable to forgive ourselves the things we don’t like about ourselves, and claim God’s love and faithfulness in being with us in spite of our issues, which we are unwilling to hand over.
This would be approaching the Father and stating the terms and conditions of our relationship with Him. This would be telling Him how we would like the relationship to work, and thus how we plan to maintain control over it. If in fact an intimate relationship is to take place with the Lord, any believer out there will confirm that it usually does not take place according to our plans and wishes.
A believer in an intimate relationship with our Lord will readily acknowledge that apart from His Grace, and in spite of all the best intentions to be a follower of Christ, there was nothing that s/he did but everything He did to bring about, seal and cement that relationship. Constant awareness of who truly holds the cards brings about an unparalleled humility that belongs to the children of God.
To be self-aware is to be vigilant about our own weaknesses and flaws, and their detrimental consequences on self and others. To be self-reflexive is to intensively search our hearts for our motives, and what results may come from them. To be a follower of Christ is to recognize our failed state, and to invoke His Grace in sustaining us through our daily life as we concentrate not on fitting ourselves to be “model Christians”, but of a willing heart that listens to our Lord’s call only.
It is only in this way that we put into practice the act of humbling ourselves before the Lord, so that His good work in us may be begun and continued. If we are honest with ourselves more so than following doctrine, dogma and expectations, the real fight in being a Christian is understanding how Christ applies to our daily lives. Self-reflection allows us the opportunity to “clean” up the room called our hearts, by giving to Christ those things we identify as needing removal or help.
We are unable one day to get up and say I will stop being a bitter person, unless we are willing to tackle the root of the bitterness. For some, it may be as easy as a mind shift, whereas for others, they may have to delve into difficult or painful experiences. What I am trying to show is the difficulty in taking Biblical decrees, and stating that we as Christians will carry them out without being fully aware of our own weaknesses. It would be akin to stepping out into a battlefield with a bazooka for a weapon, and realizing that we know nothing of how to operate the instrument, giving our enemy an advantage.
In my view, there is nothing more dangerous than a believer of Christ who uses God’s Grace to undermine fellow brothers and sisters, because they do not fit into the believer’s “ideals”. It is easy as Christians to become judgmental of others not because we mean to be, but based on how we have chosen to live. We assume our choices on all others, and this is wrong. If in fact the believer hoped to draw the person closer to Christ, the believer may succeed only in pushing the person away, and teaching him/her what s/he thought all along, that Christians are all just a bunch of hypocrites in denial.
There is a strong emphasis on self-examination and being naked in front of our Lord, because unlike past or ongoing relationships, this one has to be different to work. We have a lot to lose, if we are not willing to walk up naked to our Lord, show Him ourselves and ask Him to forgive us for not accepting His unconditional love before. What we find is that as good as God is, He already was. When we walk into an intimate relationship with Christ, our eyes are opened to just how good He has always been. It is not that He will now start being good to us, rather, it is that as we were, blind and unseeing, disrespectful and agents or participants of all that is not good, He still Is.
It is nearly impossible to feel and know God’s love, and not see, feel or share it with our fellow humans, because His love is for Humanity. When we hand over our will and pride to the Lord, He hands us His eyes, and we first see how much He loves us, and how He loves His children. This humbles us to accept, reciprocate and then share that love. It becomes very hard to be judgmental and bitter in this state. Becoming unusually patient, understanding, compassionate and caring becomes the order of the day, because our fellow human’s weaknesses are the reminder of why we need and have God’s love, and why it just simply must be extended to others.
There is very little that equates to feeling loved at our weakest or worst. Walls collapse when we feel another’s love, but we would need someone who is not willing to devour us at our weakest point by placing conditions on how long his/her love will last if we do not ante up. A witness for Christ is the one willing to stand in our weakness and love us where we cannot see, feel or receive it. A witness for Christ will do this not to enable, but to stand by and in, while presenting our weaknesses to the Lord on our behalf, as we do not know Him as s/he does. Only Christ can put this burden on a believer, and only He can bless it with simultaneous joy and peace.
This is what differentiates a believer and a non-believer. What God gives His children is very real. Life does not become better or easier. In fact, life becomes strangely difficult once the Holy Spirit is activated in us. I use the word strange because in all things, as God gives and takes, it is true that His grace is sufficient. Romans 8:28 becomes a living testament for those who believe.
His peace is supernatural, so much so that others constantly watch for the “crack” expected and seen in false bliss. Not so with Christ. We are human yes. We are weak that is true. We are constantly in battle with our will, to surrender to Christ and not to our flesh. Sometimes we take a day to get up, and other times years. Sometimes we move far up, and other times we fall way below. In all things, and as only He can, God uses these experiences to teach us about how He loves us, and what we must do with His love.
With God, nothing is wasted, because our lives are that precious to Him. To understand this is to understand that all life is precious to the King, and so, He pays special attention to those who live to undermine His precious work, especially those who know better. What is incredible is that while He does this, He is still working to show us all our flaws, weaknesses and where we wrong Him. All of us are given the opportunity to learn to view others and ourselves as Christ does, and thus live as He did. There is no doctrine, dogma, societal expectation or anything else out there that can make us live as He did.
Only the power of the Holy Spirit can do that in us, and so, this is why it is important to be self-reflexive and ask for His help. With His empowerment, and continual working within us, we step into the model of Christ. It is quite unlike any societal expectation, as the voice we listen to be not of humans, but of a Supreme God. Elements in our lives, especially existing relationships get severely tested when we stop seeking human approval, and start to do what the Spirit moves us to. A lot of misunderstandings and judgments take place. We get to experience and hear a lot of hurtful things from people we expected to be at the frontline cheering us on. We also struggle daily with our failed states and renewed spirits against a backdrop of constant incoming information, and our own experiences.
It is this that I want to encourage you to consider. How best to react to the feelings that would surface due to this? Would it not be easy to give in to the smug feeling that people are only hating because we have “changed”, “are moving on up”, or “leaving old lives” behind? How easy is it to pick up the Bible and invoke God’s curses on all our “enemies”, or pray to Him to “forgive them for they know not what they do?” Would any of these actions serve to enrich or cover up our faith? What would the difference between those that persecute us and our inward resentment be?
When we are self-reflexive, we drink from a bitter cup that reveals our weaknesses. In acknowledging and then offering up our weaknesses (pride will never allow us to show anyone, let alone God our bile, but we must give Him not only our good, but our bad too), we allow God to do what He does best which is to cover His children.
His power is revealed in our weakness, and in submitting to His will, He shows others, and us what to live for Christ truly means. As the King stood by and in our weaknesses petitioning our Father on our behalf, we get to do the same because we in fact are following Him.