The other day while driving, I listened to the news about Black Friday, where a woman used pepper spray to keep other people away from the deals she wanted. And a grandfather who was arrested, even though he claimed he was merely trying to protect his grandson from harm in the push and shove of holiday shoppers. At one of the stoplights where I waited, the car ahead of me kept honking the horn because the first car in line was holding up traffic by not turning right on red. Whatever happened to Merry Christmas? ‘Tis the season to be jolly? The season of peace and good will?
Shortly after that, I read a Facebook post by Brenda Gust, a sweet friend of mine. Although it dealt with the problem of Christians who have a hard time getting past the sins of others, it made me conscious of my own shortcomings in the “good will” season. I asked her to let me share it with you, not to point fingers, but to help us all see that “Keep(ing) Christ in Christmas” begins with us.
Thanks, Brenda. Here’s Part I:
Here are some really hard but true statements:
*Christians are mean. We shouldn’t be, but we have the capability of hurting other Christians more than many non-Christians would.
*Christians are self-righteous and judgmental of others. We shouldn’t be. We’ve been forgiven much. I guess we all lose sight of that.
*Christians are called to look like Jesus. But do we?
*If I was not a Christian, and I watched many Christians…I don’t know that I would want the Jesus they serve because I don’t know that we look any different than the rest of the world. Weren’t we sanctified…set apart??
I’m not just talking to others. I’m talking to myself. Let me explain where this is all coming from. In my house we are all free to be imperfect. I can tell you there have been nights that I have retired to bed so mad at myself for wasted opportunities with my kids. Or that I may have said or done the wrong thing. Please know that each of my kids and my husband have been awakened in the middle of the night so that I could apologize for a wasted opportunity or a careless word. Not so I could ease my guilty conscience, but because when an apology is deserved, there’s no time to waste.
I’m not perfect or better than one single person on this earth. I’m well aware that I’m not. But because I know how much of my sin is at the bottom of the ocean, I try to remember that I can’t sit in judgment of anyone. Listen to this picture of who God is, from Micah 7:18-19, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Christians, if God himself “delights to show mercy” on his people, who are we to withhold it? Who are we to hold over others the sin that God covered in mercy and compassion, treaded underfoot and hurled into the bottom of the ocean? The sad fact of the matter is that when we sit and judge another person for what WE have deemed vile, our judgment looks no better in the eyes of God than whatever the other person did.
In my very best moment of my very best day, I’m still in need of Jesus. Of grace. Of mercy. Of forgiveness. Of love. Of acceptance. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” That’s a beautiful reminder to me that I’m no better than anyone else. Ever. Period. I’m thankful for God’s word…even when it brings me back to reality.
At Kamp Kingsland 2000, the memory verse was Philippians 2:5-11. I remember because that camp year changed my life forever. The beautiful truth of that verse has always stayed with me. Here’s the passage:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.”
Friends, if Jesus himself did not take on the attitude of someone who is better than every other man walking this earth, why do we think we can? Why do we continue to condemn someone who has fallen instead of showing them grace? Especially fellow Christians who are trying to start over? Are we so shallow and competitive that we can’t afford to allow someone else to thrive in Christ? Are we so greedy that we want to hoard all of that free grace?
To be continued. Part II on Thursday