Being a Christian does not mean that I’m like all the other Christians in the world, but that we all seek to be like Christ. There is nothing Christian about pretending a perfection we don’t own. There is also nothing Christ-like about wallowing incessantly in our imperfections. The impossibility of following Christ is that we, broken people, are given a gift as though we were never broken at all, and then we are called to honor that gift by choosing to obey a law that cannot save us. We are, in Christianese, sinners saved by grace and constrained by a law that, apart from the work of Christ, can only condemn us. And we do this because of and out of love. Inexplicable, ain’t it? Ineffable, even. But we don’t all agree about how we are supposed to love God and love each other. We don’t all have the same vision about what it means to obey the commands of a holy God. Some of us are always reverential while others comment irreverently on our poor attempts at holiness. Some think that representing Christ in a fallen world means never showing weaknesses because that would imply that Christ isn’t enough…and He is. Others are committed to authenticity and don’t want to imply to anyone that they have achieved perfection this side of heaven…because none of us do. Both sides have strong Biblical arguments and righteous intentions. And both have a hard time being moderate in their position, so they tend to find the other inexcusable.
I should say now that I fall on the latter end of the spectrum. I am so clearly not perfect and so intensely not interested in pretending that I am. The simple act of not sharing feels like pretense to me. I like self-deprecating humor and am encouraged by other people’s honest tales of redeemed brokenness more than by stories of unrelenting optimism. I love Jamie Wright’s blog. I still laugh out loud at the “Worst End of School Mom Ever” post by Jen Hatmaker. I fight personal offense when I read the above article, because I too write about what a mess I am. But. It’s not incorrect. It just lacks balance. It implies that only serious people are really Christians. It ignores that Paul called himself the chief of sinners. It ignores that the blogs in question continually turn to Christ as the only hope in a messy life. It ignores that C.S. Lewis didn’t only write Mere Christianity, he also wrote about a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb…”who almost deserved it.” I’d have an easier time reading the meat of this article and assenting to the undeniable fact that Christ doesn’t allow us to wallow in our brokenness if it didn’t feel so ungracious toward people who have done nothing but share honestly from their own lives. Lewis’ philosophical words are great, but there has to be room in the family of God for the comedian as well as the theologian. Self-deprecation doesn’t deny Christ’s work in our lives. As Christians we do test ourselves and question each other…but we are supposed to do so in love. And we aren’t supposed to challenge each other to uniformity of personality, but of purpose. We are all different and the only one we are supposed to be made in the image of is Christ.
So, for those who are private and reverent and keep their messes to themselves: you are real and are loved by God. You are right that God calls us to do good and not to wallow in our sin, mess and brokenness. He made you to protect your inner self and He redeems you without changing that reality of who you are. And. For those who are performers and irreverent and share their messes: you are real and loved by God. You are right that you are not yet in your glorified state and being a Christian doesn’t automatically fix all your brokenness. He made you to share your inner self and He redeems you without changing that reality of who you are. He uses both types of people to show the world who He is and that He loves us. Let’s show each other grace and strive together instead of struggling against each other.