I love being right. Even more, being proved right. We all do! (Am I right?) Especially when somebody thought we were wrong. Vindication is like hot cider on a snowy day, sending a shot of warmth right down to our toes and, more often, straight to our puffed-up heads.
So if we already battle this pride in being right (and known as right), how much more difficult (and dangerous) is that battle for we Christians who enjoy confidence that we are “right” in our faith and belief in the Bible? It can get ugly, can it not?
Let us not be like those of whom Jonathan Swift said “have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” Love need never require the sacrifice of theology, Scriptural clarity, or proper adherence to the biblical injunction to be discerning and rightly divide what is evil from what is good. But it’s imperative that we sacrifice self-righteousness and pious superiority of attitude. I definitely struggle with such pride! Jesus said the world would know His people by our love, not our religiosity nor even our fervor. If we have not love, we are merely clanging gongs, yes? (Perhaps, viewed in that way, social media can be called the loudest place in the world.)
I know a gal here in Little Rock who is part of a group of Christian women that regularly visits ladies backstage at local strip clubs; they talk, get to know them, give them little gift bags of necessities, and talk about Christ. Through simple kindness and by consistently coming back to maintain and grow these acquaintances, she and her friends have gained the trust of the club owners, and of the women, who have actually said to them, “We don’t refer to you as Christians. Christians don’t treat us very well. We call you Christ-followers.”
What a testimony.
That should tell us something about how Chstians are perceived by those who need the message with which we’ve been entrusted.
How I desire my presence to be a breath of fresh air to any unbeliever! I know that doesn’t mean they’d never be offended by the truth; the most lovingly spoken truth is always offensive to sinful pride, until the moment the Holy Spirit softens the heart hearing it.
One thing that may help is to remember that it’s NOT that we are “right” at all. I didn’t look at everything out there and decided that the best course of action was to become a Christian. It’s not that I’m right; it’s that my dead, unresponsive heart had been quickened by the Creator. We’re new creations! That means it was necessary for us to be utterly re-made. Salvation is no cosmetic makeover, but renewal from the inside out.
As we converse with unbelievers and plead with them to recognize their state as sinners before a holy God, I think we too often leave out the very important element of “I used to be exactly where you are!” You see, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking to a murderer while the worst thing we ever did was snitch an extra bite-size Milky Way from our co-worker’s desk – because our state without Christ was the same: destined for eternal separation from God in a real physical place called Hell. That point is the point at which all human lives are identical: the intersection of sin and grace. This should bring a powerful humility to our attitude with unbelievers and with each other. The Gospel isn’t about saying “look at everything that’s wrong about you and the way you live!” It’s about “Look at what a sinner I was, and see what God’s done! See how He’s forgiven and changed me! I was condemned and I deserved it. But see something wonderful: God is not only a righteous Judge, but also a kinsman Redeemer, willing to give all of Himself to buy us back from the grave. All He requires is a simple, true-hearted repentance.” We are not “right”. We are redeemed.
If you’re a Christian, no matter what your life has looked like, the inner core of your salvation story is the same as mine, and it goes like this:
One day as I’m thinking about the Gospel I’ve heard, the Holy Spirit arrests me, brings me into a big courtroom and stands me up before the judge . . . God. I look sideways across the aisle, and who is the prosecutor? God. The offended party? It’s Him. The jury box? God is there too. The court reporter, the witnesses, the bailiff, all of them. Every position in the courtroom is filled, but God and I are the only ones present. The massive stack of evidence against me is readily called forth, and He finds me guilty. I know there’s nothing I can do to refute the evidence. All is lost. Consistent with His perfect justice, He reads a sentence of physical and eternal spiritual death.
Then, the Gospel tells me to look and see who’s standing by my side.
God is also my lawyer.
Jesus Christ, fully God, the second member of the Trinity, is my Advocate!
His head, hands, and side are bleeding. Standing between me and the bench, He speaks. “Holy One, Your judgment of this defendant is righteous. You know also that I have lived in perfect obedience to You, and suffered scourging and death already to pay far more than this convict’s offenses are worth; to pay for the sin of the world! If she will but repent and ask Us, You can put her sin to My account, My righteousness to hers, and set her free.”
Can this offer be real?! I repent! He is my only hope.
The accounts are adjusted. I have been bought with a price, now a bondservant of Christ my Savior.
But oh, I am free!