Christianity is not about perfect people. It is about broken people who have a hope in being restored. A few years ago, a former Islamic woman turned Christian, spoke to our church about her conversion. I remember how animated she became when she spoke of the hope that Jesus brought her. It is a hope she had never had before she was Christian. She spoke of trying to be “good enough” yet, never being able to obtain the level of perfection to which she was held. Whether that sense of perfection was from her family of origin or something to do with the religion in which she was raised is something I can not attest to.
In John 3:18 Jesus says, “There is no judgement awaiting those who trust Him [the son of God]. Paul, in Col 1:22, states, “As a result [of what Jesus did], He has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”
There is no spiritual judgement for those who believe in the sacrifice of Jesus. We have been made blameless and pure through Jesus. That is our hope and our salvation and the thing we should stand on as Christians. Sadly, even in Christian circles, this point is overlooked. Somehow, it is lost between confessing and repenting.
A few years back, before I understood this truth, I was trying so hard to be perfect. And I was failing miserably. I was emotionally punishing myself, thinking if I could just flog myself a little harder, then my plight would be noticed and God would receive my offering. I thought I could be made pure and atoned for through my self inflicted emotional pain. I felt like I was unworthy, and should be punished as such.
One evening after classes I tried to explain my brokenness to another woman. I was hoping for comfort and insight. But as I explained my theology she simply asked, “So, what you are saying is what Jesus did wasn’t good enough? ” The words were not spoken harshly, but they had an edge to them. That edge cut into me. How could I not think that what Jesus did was good enough? It was me, I tried to explain, that was not good enough. Those words cut me, but they were so true.
What I had missed out on is that Jesus had already made me pure. No judgments could ever be held against me because I claim salvation in the name of Jesus. I claim that I am one of His. I didn’t need to punish myself. He had already taken the punishment for me so that I can have hope to see the beauty of heaven. It is more than a hope, it is a security. Spiritually, I am blameless and pure.
It is not our striving toward perfection or goodness that makes us good. It is not the commandments that make us behave ethically. It is the love that the Father has shown to us. It is the light which radiates from us because we have an understanding of what has been done for us.
I know someone who refuses to go to church not because she doesn’t believe, not because she has done something awful, not because she doesn’t think it important, but because she thinks she needs to get her life “right” before she can go. While I respect her not wanting to appear hypocritical, my heart aches for her and her misunderstanding of what “church” is.
Yet, I believe her thinking is all too common. There is a popular belief that people who go to church are perfect, if they aren’t perfect, then they are hypocrites. So we all go around wearing a superficial, perfect mask and we are afraid to admit our failures.
I used to have a similar belief, especially in regard to those who are in a position of power within the church. If you were to be in ministry, for example, then you had better not have any black marks against you. Ministers were those who had it together and were leading perfect lives.
Then I met ministers who confessed their shortcomings and failures. They would talk about their woundedness that either they had caused or that they had been on the receiving end. They were human, they wore no mask, and they let me see them in their humanity. I was astounded.
Then I began to study the great leaders and heroes of the Bible. David had an affair, had the husband of the woman whom he had impregnated killed in order to cover over his affair. Moses killed a man before God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery. Jonah ran away from God. The Apostles didn’t believe. Yet, they were all called.
I struggle with bipolar depression and yet, I have been called. I am not perfect. I may fail you in my humanity. I mess up.
Church is not supposed to be about a bunch of perfect people. We wouldn’t need Jesus if we were perfect. No, Jesus came for those who are sick. Church is about us being a better person tomorrow than we are today. It is about helping each other find their way on the journey.
Even if you are a messed-up person, it is okay to go to church. You are not going to ruin the track record of the church. Come to Jesus with all your neediness, all your imperfections, all your shortcomings and failures. His grace is big enough.
I love the line where he talks about the church being a hospital for the wounded. Church should be a place where people come in contact with the overwhelming grace of God, not where the righteous are affirmed for what they have done. What do you think? What should church look like? What does it look like for you? Has the church ever wounded you? Do you think it does more harm than good?
I recently had the awesome privilege of baptizing one of my oldest daughters. She had been wanting to be baptized for quite a while and my husband and I kept asking her more in depth questions. Finally, she chose a date. A very special date. The Sunday before Thanksgiving.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving is a very special date for us because that is the Sunday my father passed away two years ago. I thought it very fitting that on the day he took a step closer to God, my daughter chose that day to also take a step closer to God.
To baptize my daughter is an experience I never thought I would have. Not only because my daughter could choose from a myriad of family members and mentors, but simply because in my Christian denomination tradition, men typically are the ones who do things in leadership roles such as baptizing. I go to a church, for which I am very grateful, that they are trying to change and expand the role of women in the church.
So I got to baptize my daughter. There was so much I wanted her to know. I had prepared a speech for her, but in the moment, I became very nervous and forgot about half of it. I think I will write it all down in a letter to her so she can have it as a keepsake. I want her to know that God has plans for her. Jeremiah 29:11 states: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for you to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” I want my daughter to know that by taking Christ on in baptism, it allows her to go perfect and blameless before God, since Jesus made the atonement for our sins. I want her to know that she does not have to wear the robes of spiritual shame, but can shed the for a robe of righteousness. I want her to know that she is going to mess up, but that God loves her radically and will pursue her all of her days.
I think I hit most of those points when I baptized her. I think I just forgot to elaborate on many of them as I had planned to.
Nonetheless, It was a very special day for me not only because I got to baptize my daughter, but because I am wanting to go into women’s speaking ministry. Although there is much I need to overcome in the way of nervousness, my daughter’s baptism for me, in many ways, was like my initiation into that role from a spiritual perspective. I hope that continues to be true for me. For the church family that stayed, I thank you. For my family that came, bless you. And for those who were only there is spirit, that was a gift.