Thursday, July 05, 2007

This is what Christianity looks like

Joe Carter struggles with being a jerk even though he's been a Christian for 30 years:

How is this possible? How can I be a Christian for over three decades (since the age of six) and still be such a jerk? The only response I can give is that if I wasn't a Christian I'd be much, much worse. As Evelyn Waugh--another Christian who recognized he was a nasty chap--once said, "If not for my faith I would be barely human."

While true, that answer seems a bit of a cop-out. I don't like being a jerk and I don't like making excuses for my nasty behavior. So I attempt to be nicer, more likable. I pretend to be genial and gregarious in the hope that I'll eventually become less of a jerk.

But it doesn't work. The more I pose and pretend that I'm something I'm not, the more I appear to be a hypocritical jerk.

The main problem is that I go about it all wrong. Instead of trying to be more likable I should focus on being more loving. As C.S. Lewis once noted, "Christian Love (or Charity) for our neighbors is quite a different thing from liking or affection."
Carter's post is a window into one of the biggest struggles that Christians experience: how to love others more than we love ourselves. How do we love the unlovable? How do we love those who tick us off or who annoy us? Those who make our Christian smiles slip, those who push our buttons until our true self shows?

We do this by:

1. Understanding who Christ died for: the unlovable. Sinners who were at enmity with God:
Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
God loved us and sacrificed his Son for us when we were in rebellion against him. It's helpful to keep that in mind when someone causes us grief. How can that grief compare in anyway to the sinner's (our) enmity against God?

2. Understanding who we are now that Christ died to set us free from sin:
2 Corinthians 5:13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
As we learn who we are in Christ by reading Scriptures, we struggle with what that looks like in our lives. We understand that Christ has died to set us free from the guilt and bondage of sin to be bound and obedient to God. But it's not easy, it's a struggle, one that will continue until our true self is revealed in Christ. We live now in the hope of what we have been promised. That should motivate us to strive to become what we already are :-)

3. Realizing how our obedience reflects our love of God. If we loved God, we would be obedient to him and love others as he loves them and commands us to:
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Yeah, I know this is a struggle but it's what we have been called to do. We need to remember that we aren't saved for our own sake, or for our happiness but for Christ's sake:
2 Corinthians 5:15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised
And while we are keeping all that in mind, we should remember this always:
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
BTW, go read the rest of Carter's post and if you like it, digg it. I think it's worth being dug.

Tags: ,