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Christians Aren't Perfect People
So there I was on a Saturday morning thoroughly enjoying being in the presence of 600 ladies at a breakfast hosted by a women's ministry called JOY International. While door prizes were being given away, breakfast was served. Everything looked fantastic, the coffee was great as was the quiche, popovers and fruit. After some pleasant conversation, the servers came back to the tables to collect the dishes.
One lady at my table was picking at her quiche and when the server asked if she was still working on it, the lady made an ugly face and said, "it has peppers in it," just like a four-year-old would. The server walked away shaking her head as I sat there cringing. I thought to myself that complaining to the hotel staff who were working so hard to serve all these ladies was not being a very good Christian witness. I wondered if the server walked away thinking all Christians were complainers.
And therein lies the dilemma. I had an expectation that all of these women, including myself, who were confessed Christians would know to act appropriately. That we would be a witness to Christ, living by the example given to us by Jesus Himself. Christians expect other Christians to be Christ-like, and I think, so does the world. And when we don't live up to our Biblical standards, we are called hypocrites.
But here's a newsflash - while Jesus is perfect, His followers are not. We live in a fallen world. And even though we strive to be like Him, sometimes we fail miserabley. Is that being a hypocrite? I don't think so - it's being human.
Take for instance the following scriptures:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23
And also the scripture where the Apostle Paul struggles with sin:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15
So Why Aren't Christians Perfect?
The easy answer to this question, like I mentioned above, is that Christians are human. Yes, we have the Holy Spirit residing inside of us that helps us strive to be Christ-like, but we also have our flesh or the worldly part of us to deal with as well.
Many Christians come from broken, dysfunctional homes. Others were deeply hurt at one time in their lives. There are those who suffered great abuse - sexual, emotional even spiritual. Just because Christians serve such an awesome God, does not mean their lives have been so awesome. Christians have issues in their lives to work out just like everyone else.
Christians can be depressed, have anger issues, be addicted, can be on medication and can go through counseling just like the rest of the world. Depending on their issue, they may respond to certain situations in a certain way, sometimes a negative way. When another Christian or non-Christian sees that, they may be put off. But we must remember that no one is perfect.
Put Christ on a Pedestal, Not Other People
After rededicating my life to Christ, I looked to other Christians as to how to act and how to live my life. I had expectations from them like honesty, integrity, doing what they said they were going to do, being kind to others, always doing the right thing.
There were also church leaders I looked up to. Like for instance, Pastor Ted Haggard of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO. I met him. I sat in his church and listened to his amazing sermon. I believed he was someone who stood for truth. I believed he was a man of integrity. And then he fell. He fell big time. He was accused of having homosexual relationships and selling drugs. How could this possibly happen? How could such a seemingly strong Christian leader be living a lie? Answer - he's human, he's imperfect and "the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)
I have learned to not put Christian leaders or even other Christians up on a pedestal. I have learned to not expect perfection from them. I have learned that other Christians can be hurtful. I have learned I can't trust someone just because they call themselves a Christian. But through all of this I have learned that there is One that I can put on a pedestal, that I can expect perfection from, that will never hurt me, and someone that I can always trust and that is Jesus.
But What About Repentance?
Above, I listed reasons why Christians may not be perfect. They may have grown up in a dysfunctional home and haven't received complete healing for abuse they may have suffered. They may struggle with damaged emotions. Also, Christians have to contend with their enemy, Satan.
But how does repentance fit into all of this? I have learned that repentance is to turn away from sin and to show remorse for past conduct. The Bible says:
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts 3:19
I believe that Christians need to have an attitude of repentance - that they are always willing to try to turn away from sinful behavior. Sometimes for some people I think people can repent instantly from a certain sin and never fall into again. For others, it is a struggle to repent from a certain sinful behavior but I believe the Lord knows their hearts and is pleased by their willingness and desire to change. Because God requires repentance it stops us from saying things like, "Oops I sinned again, oh well nobody is perfect."
Christians Need to Stop Putting on an Act
In saying all of this, I do still believe that we as Christians need to be lights shining in a dark world, that our behavior should reflect whom we serve and that we should strive to be Christ-like. But in doing so, I don't think we need to act like we are perfect, that we need to put on a fake smile and tell everyone our lives are great all the time.
Jesus is all about truth and in being truthful, we need stop putting on an act. We need to stop judging one another when someone messes up. We need to learn to share our shortcomings with one another. We need to be there for one another with open arms instead of gossiping behind someone's back. If we as Christians acted this way instead of pretending our lives are perfect then maybe the world would realize that too. Maybe then they would stop ridiculing us and calling us hypocrites, or at least maybe they would take us a little more seriously. Maybe.