At present, in the West at least, Church’s approval rating has never been this low. In my view one of the major reasons for this is that many (non-believers) perceive church as a clan of cynic pretenders. People hate to see religious people living in denial – publicly professing to be flawless but secretly struggling more or less like everybody else.
Believers love to think Church is an exclusive club of super humans. Christians (especially we the “born-again” believers) pride ourselves as a clan of the chosen elite and our leaders (Pastors, Bishops, Prophets etc.) as moral champions – a selection of flawless, got-it-all-together individuals.
Apart from creating enormous internal pressure this very unrealistic expectation is bringing telling frustration and resentment as we increasingly realize that all of us – regardless of our creed or titles – are imperfect humans after all.
The truth is that Church is anything but a congregation of perfect individuals. In fact, Church is more or less like a University Hospital – a place where the ‘sick’ come to get healing as they learn how to heal others. It’s a campus where all of us are potential patients, trainees, practitioners and consultants in our own way.
Being a believer does not necessarily mean being perfect. Objective studies of scripture tell us one can be anointed and still have some character issues that need sorting out.
Every one of us is naturally stronger in at least one aspect of life and weaker in others. For example one might be free financially but struggle in other areas such as health or relationships. Every one of us, as the bible says, struggles with some kind of ‘sin’ that so easily trip us up.
In fact even early believers – including the very students of Jesus – struggled with moral issues despite the fact that Jesus Christ Himself was their Pastor. Most of them attended Jesus’ Church but still struggled with sickness, hatred, immorality, idol worship and other moral issues.
A chilling example (as if we need reminding) is that of Judas.
Despite being one of top ministry leaders handpicked by Jesus himself Judas struggled with many issues not least financial irregularities. As a Financial Director he stole money from the Ministry Accounts and later took bribe to get his boss crucified.
As a matter of fact, Peter himself was still struggling with some issues at the time Jesus promised to give him the kingdom keys. At this time Peter had a shaky faith, struggled with emotions and suffered from incredible low self-esteem. No wonder soon afterwards Jesus called him ‘satan’. Just few days after confessing Jesus as the Lord Peter went on to deny Jesus – three times!
Mainstream Christian religion claim once one confesses Jesus as the Lord immediately one becomes perfect – all bad attitudes and habits miraculously vanish instantly. But scripture tell us that perfection (to be born again) does not happen overnight; it takes a painstaking, time-consuming learning process. The nature and duration of the ‘salvation’ process depends mainly on how severe one’s problem is and one’s co-operation with teacher Spirit.
God’s love for us is unconditional. He loves us even when we are imperfect. As CS Lewis once said, God doesn’t love us because we are good but He will make us good because He loves us.
Jesus called his followers “students” for a reason. He expected them to learn from Him (and later from the Holy Spirit).
Repentance (confessing Jesus as Lord) is like an admission requirement. Repentance makes us the disciples (students) of The Kingdom University under professor Holy Spirit. When one repents one gets admitted into a mental rehabilitation program in the Kingdom Hospital under Dr. Holy Spirit. That one is admitted in the rehabilitation program does not mean that one has already graduated.
Just as one does not get well just by being at the hospital ward, one does not get saved just by repenting. It takes a series of real life experiences coordinated by the Spirit to get our minds and our behavior sorted.
As I said earlier perfection is a process- it happens in successions. We learn one principle at a time. As soon as we have mastered one principle we move on to learning the next one. The Spirit decides which principle one has to start with and which one should be the next.
Over the years I’ve learned a few things. When I see myself (or others) struggle with certain issues I’m more forgiving because my expectations aren’t that high anymore. I don’t expect people to be perfect because there are none out there.
For me the key is humility – accepting that we are all sinners that need God’s help. On the occassion that we find ourselves to be better than others in certain aspects it is only wisdom to acknowledge the fact that who we have been, who we are and who we shall become is the manifestation of God’s grace.
It is always easy to brag about our achievements and blame others for their predicaments. Too often we Christians have allowed arrogance and pride to rule our hearts. Instead of helping them we tend to condemn those who are struggling with the very issues that God healed us from. It is difficult to love and serve people you condemn.
Our responsibility as Christians is to help people live a sound life. Jesus commanded his disciples to go and dispense life to all creatures everywhere. By this he meant to take care of all people regardless of their religious, sexual or social economic background.
We are being saved to save others. The very reason we are being healed is because we’re meant to heal others. Jesus told Simon Peter “… I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” – Luke 22:32