As we celebrate another Christmas this week, I want to take a few moments to share some thoughts with all who will take the time to read this, especially to my non-Christian friends…
Those of us who profess to be Christians don’t always act like the Christ we claim to adore. We are sometimes impatient, angry, hurtful, and even downright mean to others. We do stupid things that we ought not do. We fail to do some things we should. We disobey the commands of the Lord we claim to follow. We have days where things seem to be on the right track and where our thoughts, words and deeds faithfully represent Christ, and then there are other days when we stumble and fall far, far short. Unbelievers looking for such inconsistencies to discredit the faith and reject Christianity don’t have to look too far at times to see so-called believers acting in very unchristian ways.
To my non-Christian friends, please accept my apologies for such inconsistencies. Know that I along with another billion+ Christians around the globe deal with the same struggles you do, the same temptations, the same desires to do what is expedient or easy or pleasurable or selfish or acceptable to those around us, even when such desires are at odds with what our Lord Jesus Christ commanded and modeled in his time on earth. We are human like you.
We are imperfect.
We won’t be perfect this side of heaven, either. Since we aren’t perfect, our churches aren’t perfect. But we know that if we abide in Christ and his Word, surrendering daily to his lordship and leadership, then our lives today ought to look more like Christ than they did a year or two ago. Our lives a year or two from now ought to look more like Christ than they do now. So please try not to judge us (or at least our Lord) by the momentary ups and downs of our day-to-day lives. Look at the pattern of our lives over the long haul and see if we are becoming more like our Lord. If we are – good. If we aren’t – tell us. We need to know. Please understand that we are a work in progress and God isn’t through with us yet. Also know that not all who attend a church or have some Christian background in their family or history have had a life-changing, living experience with Christ. Without that, there is no chance such a person will grow in Christ-likeness over time because they aren’t through relationship with Christ the new creation he promises to make of all who are truly his. In the midst of our imperfection, remember this…
Jesus is perfect.
He is perfect even if we are not. Don’t reject him because of our poor imitation of him. He is worthy of all of our lives, all of our focus and attention, worship and service. If his followers don’t represent him well and you are therefore tempted to reject him, please first go to the only faithful and true written source that reveals him perfectly – the Bible – and seek him. If you seek him, you will find him. Read the Gospel of John if you haven’t done so. You’ll find that his time on earth 2000 years ago was also surrounded by imperfect followers who messed up like his current followers do. But that makes him all the more different and holy and glorious and worthy. He is the focus of our faith – not us. He is the perfect one – not us. He is the object of our worship – not us. He is the one we are all called to yield our lives to that we may gain the eternal life only available through him.
I wish we Christians weren’t known so much for what we’re against as for what we are for. Our passions on social and political issues can be unhelpful distractions that shift the focus away from Christ and to other topics subject to extreme, divisive emotions. I’m as guilty as anyone in this. There are times when I know better, but I sound off anyway about some issue when I ought to just keep my mouth (and my keyboard) quiet. But I beg of you not to reject the perfect Jesus revealed in the Bible because of imperfect followers like me.
At Christmas we celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world – God himself in the flesh. He came to live a perfect, sinless life, to die a horrible, cruel death on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and to rise again to provide a way for imperfect, sinful people like you and me to be made right again with the God from whom we were/are estranged. He offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who turn from their sin and place their trust solely in him – in what he did for us that we could not do for ourselves. All who come to him in repentance and faith then embark on that unending journey in this life to grow in holiness and become more like him. All of his followers are at various points on that journey.
It’s nice to hear the Christmas story and to imagine a sweet little baby in a manger. Who doesn’t like babies? But Jesus didn’t come to stay a baby. He came to be the Savior of all who will surrender their lives to him. He is the only way to real life. He is the only path to true peace. He is the only one perfect and worthy of all we have and all we are. He is the only one who can forgive sin and grant eternal life. He is the only one all of us will face on a coming day of judgment.
My plea this Christmas for my non-Christian friends is this: look past us imperfect Christians and look to our perfect Savior, Jesus Christ. He is worthy – not only at Christmas, but every day – now and for eternity.