What’s Your Puddle?

I promise, I’m almost done talking trees. (If you missed it, this is the final installment of my tree series, which I didn’t intend to be a series in the first place, but I’m really just incapable of being concise. Therefore, it is now a series. I promise I’m done talking about trees after this. Really. Unless I think of something else to say about them.)

In my first post, I talked about having Deep Roots. There, I discussed exquisite Biblical imagery about a healthy, deeply rooted tree that is meant to help us understand the beauty of a believer’s intimate relationship with God. Yesterday, I posted about Getting All Tangled Up, wherein I talked about growing together in a community of believers and the strength that comes from it.

Today is about having no roots and having no community. It’s about being the average, American, self-proclaimed Christian. This encompasses varying levels of professing belief. Maybe they go to church a lot, maybe occasionally, maybe never. Maybe they appreciate Facebook memes about God and re-post them sometimes. Maybe they wear a cross necklace or have a Jesus tattoo. Maybe they try really hard to be nice and good. Maybe they don’t try that hard because they figure Jesus was all about forgiveness anyway. Maybe they really like Jesus, or at least what they know of Him, but they really don’t like church-going Christians, or at least what they know of them. Maybe they’re really believers, maybe they’re not. The point is that this person would, if asked, identify him- or herself as a Christian. And the point is that this person is missing the point.

This person is a Christmas tree.

In a puddle of water.

Trying really hard to be pretty and to get people to like her.

And generally, people do. She wears pretty lights, heart-felt ornaments, eye-catching garland, and is crowned by a bright star. People must like that, or they wouldn’t decorate trees every year! Oh, and don’t forget the pretty wrapped presents beneath her branches! She has gifts to give her family and friends because she loves them. She worked really hard to carefully select, wrap, and arrange the presents. All of this makes her look beautiful, and it generally makes most people like her.

Unfortunately, those beautiful presents are masking a deadly secret: This beautiful tree has no roots, and no REAL source of life! She is dying. She’s putting on makeup every day, clasping her cross necklace around her neck, and smiling like everything is okay.

But it’s not. First of all, most of what’s beautiful about her is external. She is not bearing fruit; she is merely adorned with material things. Even worse, she has no roots, and she is trying to survive in a puddle of water that, frankly, is too easily forgotten about for days after it’s gone dry. ¬†Her puddle might be church. Or a relationship. Or general “spiritual” acknowledgements. Maybe even a devotional book. Or a self-help book. Or a white-knuckled dedication to positive thinking. Ultimately, though, it’s deferring the inevitable and keeping her just barely hanging on.

SHE

IS

DYING.

So, at some point, she’s going to start to wilt. And turn brown. And stink. Unless there’s a major intervention.

I know a lot of Christmas trees. I recognize them because I’ve been one, and so God is beginning to break my heart for them. They don’t know that there is so much more to life. That there is abundant life to be had! It’s available for you and for me, and it ain’t no puddle that’s gonna dry up.

Go, seek out Living Water. Then you won’t have to keep hoping your sad little puddle won’t dry up. That puddle’s not really working anyway, is it?

And for the cynics: You CAN re-plant a Christmas tree. So there. ūüôā

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Yeah, but…

You may have read my post from Friday, “Expectations.” If not, I invite you to read it at your leisure. Today’s post is a follow-up to that one, but it’s not necessarily required that you read the other one first to “get” this one.

After reading Friday’s post about Christians simply being humans who make mistakes like everyone else, were any of you left with a few¬†Yeah, buts?¬†

Yeah, but Angela, what about when it’s not just a mistake?

Yeah, but Angela, what about when evil people use the Word of God for their own ends?

Yeah, but Angela, what about when professing Christians have done really atrocious things, and they’re not sorry? In fact, what about when they don’t even care that they hurt anyone at all, and they just keep going around Bible-thumping?

My sweet reader, that’s different. If you have been truly hurt by one of these people, I’m so sorry. My last post probably wasn’t meant for you.

There is a difference between people being on the lookout for Christians to trip up (isn’t that judgmental?) and people feeling on guard because they’ve been (possibly repeatedly) betrayed and wounded by someone who calls himself a Christian. It is possible for that second type of person to turn into the first type of person, however, so that’s why I said in my previous paragraph that I “probably” wasn’t talking to that second type of person.

You see, there are some people–and I’ve come across them in person and online–who seem to make it one of their life’s missions to point out the humanness of Christians, point a lofty finger, and then conclude that all Christians are hypocrites and, ergo, have made it impossible for that person to accept Christianity. Honestly, that’s closed-minded, hypocritical, and judgmental. You know, all those adjectives that people like that use against Christians. Some of those people are just being mean.

The fact is, however, that some of the people described above¬†have¬†been deeply wounded by Christians in the past. Like, really wounded. Out of that deep hurt, this new defense mechanism was birthed to avoid further hurt. To those people, I say sincerely,¬†I’m sorry. I’m really sorry for the abuse, the betrayal, the lies. I can’t undo it; I can’t explain it away; I can’t make your journey to Jesus any easier. I can just say I’m sorry.

Here’s the problem, though: when someone has been so hurt by a professing Christian that they accuse all Christians of intentional evil, they are hurting people who didn’t hurt them. It really does hurt, you know, to bear the consequences of someone else’s sin. (Did you know Jesus already did that? And that He can free you of the hurt from other people’s sin, too?) Anyway, that’s what I wanted to say. I didn’t want to make it sound like I was taking anyone’s wounds lightly, because I’m not. I’m just saying that we get wounded, too. We’re all just people.

Let’s break the cycle. Ever heard the adage that “Hurt people hurt people”? Let it end now. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

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)