Expectations

I have a question for Christians and non-Christians alike:

What do you expect of a Christian? 

I’m asking a serious question here for a serious reason, so think about it. Once you find out that someone is a professing Christian, and claims to be serious about it, and probably goes to church regularly and reads the Bible regularly and prays regularly, what do you expect out of them? Do you hold him or her to a different standard? Namely, an impossible one? One that you couldn’t meet yourself?

Do you expect perfection?

I will admit that as a Christian myself, I do expect more from my brothers and sisters than I do from those who are just nominal Christians or who aren’t Christian at all. I expect serious Christians to not live a destructive, selfish lifestyle. I expect them to strive to be like Christ, and I expect to see evidence of that growth in them in general. Biblically, that’s a fairly reasonable expectation. They claim that they believe in something, so they should live like they believe it.

But what about if a Christian makes a mistake? What’s your reaction?

“I thought he was supposed to be a Christian.”

“Oh, that was real Christian of her.”

“What a hypocrite.”

These are things that I’ve heard people say about others, and these are also things people have said to me about me (just substitute the pronouns above with “you”). It’s a frustrating position to be in, to hear someone say these things about a Christian–whether it’s me or not–because that someone’s sarcasm is probably an accurate assessment.

Yeah, he does say he’s a Christian. No, that wasn’t very Christian of her. I know I’m a hypocrite, just like everyone else. It sucks. 

Do you know it’s a constant struggle? Knowing what you ought to do, but not doing it? Or even sometimes making the wrong choice with the best of intentions? Or even simply just feeling like it’s not fair to be expected to do something, and then making the choice not to do it, and then immediately feeling conviction about your sin?

It happens to everyone. It’s called being human (i.e. “sinful”), and trying to get along in this world with a whole bunch of other humans (i.e. “sinners”). This hypocrisy business (knowing the right thing to do, but not doing it) is not an isolated problem affecting only Christians; it’s an epidemic. A congenital defect. A genetic abnormality we all suffer from.

Yes, there’s a cure, but it’s a two-step process. First, Christ. He frees us from being bound by sin, and the Holy Spirit continually guides and molds the Christian into holiness. (It’s called sanctification, if you want to be fancy.) Once we’ve given our lives to Christ, we’re seen by God as if we’re free (i.e. perfect) because of Christ, not because we suddenly started acting right all the time. There is great freedom in that, in knowing that God sees Christ instead of me. That’s the first step, though; we are not going to suddenly act perfectly. We can’t.

Christians still have this sinful heart and these sinful tendencies that, frankly, really piss us off, too. You think you get mad when you see me screw up? After I said all this stuff about what I believe? Trust me; I’m typically more mad at myself than you are. Anyway, it’s because we’re still stuck with these tendencies that we have to wait for the second step to be totally free from all sin, and that’s death.

We will be totally perfect, but not until we’re set free from this world and the constant, relentless temptations of the enemy. Until then, we’re just doing the best we can. Just like you.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

~St. Paul the Apostle, in his letter to the Christians in Rome. (Romans 7:15 – 8:2, emphases mine)

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One thought on “Expectations

  1. Totally agree with where you’re coming from & the struggles. This is why we’re called to be in fellowship with other believers. It’s our obligation as Christ-followers to trust God, love one another and come around each to support and rebuke. Key word rebuke — not judge. We leave condemnation to the most Just Judge. Perfectionism stems from pride, which is a sin, so don’t be too hard on yourself … I think we all tend to beat ourselves up. But just as we love our own children unconditionally, so does God :). Those who bash Christianity based on “lack of perfection” are only diverting the attention from their empty & lonely hearts (whether or not their pride ever allows them to admit it).

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