Confessions of an Imperfect Christian

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I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

My plan is for the Confessions… series to become a regular part of the blog, but we’ll see just how much confessing I can stand!

Confession #1:

I’m a sinner.  Shocking, I know.  But seriously, what is shocking is that I lived my life, up until a few years ago, as if that wasn’t the case.  Sure, I knew that I was a sinner, I had read it repeatedly in the Bible and memorized verses that spelled it out in black and white, but I never really knew it.  In fact, I never would have admitted this out loud, of course, but I felt like I pretty much had the whole Christian living thing down.  Asked Jesus into my heart? (Um, when I was 5-years-old)  Check.  Didn’t cuss?  Check.  Youth pastor’s wife?  Check.  I was mentally checking off the boxes on my “good Christian” checklist without ever recognizing that, deep down, I was a Pharisee.  If you’ve read anything about them in the Bible you know that they were known for all the things they were against, and Jesus repeatedly rebuked them for getting between him and people who really needed him with all of their religious rules.  But when we moved to India in 2007, I was finally confronted with how much I had in common with those reviled religious leaders of old.

Spiritually speaking, living in India was like walking into a cage full of brown bears with a salmon strapped to my chest.  It was a daily assault, and in the midst of the pressure cooker of Third World living my religious facade began to crack, and I began to see the true condition of my heart in a way that I never had before.  What I saw wasn’t pretty.  But everything changed the day I stood, shaking with a rage (about something stupid, loud Divali music) like I had never felt before, and I realized that, in that moment, I was capable of a level of violence that I never imagined possible (I didn’t act on it, in case any of you are worried) but that’s when it finally hit me.  I was (am) a wreck without Jesus.  I am a sinner, and I needed someone to rescue me from myself.  In that moment I realized that my sins weren’t any smaller or bigger than the brothel madam or the murderer in prison–in the eyes of Jesus they were the same–we were the same.  Up until that point I had found it very easy to look down my nose (or turn it up in disgust) at all of the other “sinners” that I encountered, until I realized that I was just like them.  The only difference was Jesus, and his grace and forgiveness.

The book of Luke recounts a story that Jesus told to Simon, a Pharisee, in response to his disgust that Jesus would allow a prostitute to wash his feet with her tears and hair.  Jesus said, “‘Two men were in debt to a banker.  One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty.  Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts.  Which of the two would be more grateful?’

Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.’

‘That’s right,’ said Jesus…(speaking of the prostitute, he said) ””  (Luke 7:41-47  The Message)

Reading that passage, I weep for all of the years that my gratitude was so minimal because I believed I needed so little forgiveness.  Now I know better, and I am so very, very grateful for God’s love and grace, and the opportunity to share it with others!

Have you ever been guilty of knowing something about God but not really knowing it in your heart? 

How has that affected your relationship with people around you? 

Grace Outside the Box

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My family and I had the honor of living and working among the people of India as missionaries for several years.  Every day our car was bombarded with dusty hands desperately pressing and tapping against the glass.  Women, with naked children on their hips, begged for money and food as we passed their makeshift homes on the medians of the busy Delhi streets.  Car exhaust and incessant honking were their constant companions through each harried day and night.

One day, as I was entering our car, a woman gripped my elbow.  As I turned around, I was confronted with one of the most pitiful sights I’ve ever witnessed.  In her arms she held a small child whose mangled hand had been carelessly wrapped in dirty, bloody gauze.  The exposed flesh of his wound was yellow, oozing with infection, and his face was scrunched up, crying.  My heart broke with compassion while, simultaneously, my blood boiled with rage as I saw her hand out expectantly.  I thought, What type of perverse person would exploit this tragedy for their own personal gain?  I didn’t know if the child belonged to her or if he had been “borrowed” to drive up profits for the day.  I had no way of knowing if it was her idea to capitalize on his injury, or if someone else was pulling the strings behind the scenes to line his or her own pocket with rupees, and I didn’t really care.  I was disgusted and outraged at such shameful abuse and neglect.

Unfortunately, this type of thing happens daily on the streets of India.  After my anger had dialed down a bit, I felt the familiar voice of the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart.  Is that woman beyond my grace and forgiveness?  Would you share my love with her? he urged.  I squirmed.  Instinctively, I responded, No!  I absolutely do not want to share your love with her!  She doesn’t deserve it!  At this, the Holy Spirit lovingly rebuked me, Neither do you.

 Humbled and chastised, I was knocked to my knees in repentance.  I knew it was true.  How many times do we, as human beings, decide who deserves the opportunity to hear the good news that Jesus died for our sins?  If I’m honest, I don’t want Jesus to forgive people who hurt children and use them for selfish gain.  And yet, in 2 Peter 3:9, the Bible says “[God] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent”  (NLT emphasis added).  Imagine how the streets of India, or your own neighborhood, might be revolutionized by the transforming power of God’s love at work in a sinner’s heart, if only we are willing to share it with everyone.

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

Questions for Reflection:
1.  Does God’s grace have limits?  We say it is boundless, but do we live as though we believe it?
2.  Do we cheapen God’s grace when we only offer it to those we deem worthy?
3.  How might the story of the early church have been different if God had not pursued Paul with his grace and forgiveness?