At times, I’ve had people come to commend me on “being a good person”. It may have been after seeing me serve in church, going the extra yard in work, or just helping out in general day to day life. Sure, if that’s your definition of good then I can tick those boxes I guess.
There are days where I do follow the (Two Great) Commandments (Matthew 22:36-40) because it’s easy to love everyone, love God and be obedient when everything’s going great in my life (because all the Commandments depend on love). But then there are other times where I fail miserably, and fall so terribly short of the righteousness that God has called me to live and uphold (Romans 3:23; 1 Peter 1:14-16).
I have no doubt that one day, you’ll catch me short tempered, impatient, foul mouthed or displaying some other undesirable quality. One way or another I’ll always slip up somewhere, and I’ll never be perfect. There are times when I have had thoughts of anger or of lust (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-28) and have stumbled because of it. I have done my fair share of wrongdoing to others, and would be foolish to pretend otherwise by veiling myself in a facade of perfection (1 John 1:8).
I’m not just saying this all to satisfy Christian theology and doctrine (see Jeremiah 17:9), or because I’m self-deprecating, but because I feel I know myself enough to know that no matter how hard I may try in my own strength to be better, or do good works it’s all futile. Mainly because I have nothing but a wicked heart (and you can see an extensive list of what lies within it, most of those boxes I do tick – Mark 7:21-23), and it needs radical transformation – something I’m personally not capable of doing, or through any good works or deeds.
I can tell you that when I fail there are times I feel as a hypocrite and it gnaws at me. Jesus certainly has some harsh words to say to the hypocrites of His day. In light of my introductory paragraph, how am I meant to feel when people commend me but I know that I’ve done wrong? Or my motives are off? Do I pat myself on the back for the good? I can’t help but feel as a fraud, because aside from the exterior appearances of what I may do, I’m not a good person. I have a wicked heart and I need saving just as much as everyone else does.
So when we do fail, what are the consequences? This is a tough pill to swallow, particularly with the current discourse of society – but as a result of our wrongdoing, we’re all deserving of judgement. Jesus dishes out some harsh words to some followers in Luke 13:1-5:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (ESV)
Despite being harsh, Jesus reveals the finality of death – and the importance of repentance beforehand. He’s basically saying, we’re all deserving of death due to our proud, stubborn and unrepentant nature. We’re all in the same boat, and we’re all just as guilty as another – not one is perfect. I’ll elaborate more on this concept in my next article.
I recently was in a sermon, and the young pastor had an analogy like this:
Scenario one: a spider bites you during your sleep in the night, and you die.
Scenario two: a black panther comes in during the night and mauls you to death.
In which situation are you less dead? Well, you guessed it – neither matters.
Some sobering words from both accounts. It’s really hard for us to make admission about our faults and seek the healing we need. I too, am rather stubborn, proud and unforgiving at times which leads to nothing but my detriment. Life’s too short. I’m learning that despite my mistakes there is a way forward, but it comes first and foremost in acknowledgement (repentance) and then going to the graceful and merciful God that Christ taught us about.
For any of my non-Christian friends that may be reading this, don’t for one moment think that I, as a Christian think I’m better than you. You may have had experiences with some Christians that have come across this way. But I would like to allay you, from my admissions that I’m not better or perfect – but on the mend by God’s grace. The only difference is this admission having the faith to know God can fix me.
In the weeks to come, I’ll address some more issues and what’s the way out because it’s not all doom and gloom!