Wednesday, September 7, 2016

And You Call Yourself a Christian?

I am of Irish descent. 

But I don't drink. Okay, I do like wine, but I don't drink in excess. And I hate beer. I'm not entirely sure what Jameson makes, but I think it's whiskey. I've been to the plant. It bored me. Does that change my DNA and make me any less Irish?

I'm also a woman. 

But I don't need a friend to accompany me to "powder my nose" in a restaurant. I'm perfectly capable of finding the rest room on my own. Lately, I have embraced a make-up free face. I prefer to play in the mud than to play house. I would never have made it in Victorian society where needlepoint, tea, and elocution were what defined a woman. I'd have preferred electrocution. Does that make me any less of a woman?

I'm sure that you'd agree that the answer to both, of course, is no.

But where do you stand on this?

I am a Christian. 

But I sometimes skip church for no reason. And I don't read my Bible every day. Worse, sometimes I swear or treat people poorly or act selfishly. Does that make me any less of a Christian?

Sadly, some will answer yes. 

If I had to count on my fingers the number of times I've heard, "And she/he calls herself/himself a Christian!" I would run out of fingers. People who don't fully comprehend the grace of Christianity have said it, believing perhaps that once a person puts their faith, hope, and life in Christ, he or she is somehow radically changed into a creature who never makes mistakes. Someone who is perfect.

Not-so-well-meaning Christians have also said it, expecting fellow Jesus-freaks to be radically changed into a creature who never makes mistakes (conveniently forgetting that they do). Someone who is perfect.

I can understand those who may not grasp the concept of grace. Once we declare ourselves to be "saved," we are instantly thrust under a microscope. Because we claim to aspire to be Christlike, we are expected to be like Him. What the "unsaved" may not be willing to acknowledge is that we, being human, are imperfect and always will be. Becoming a "Christian" doesn't change that. We are still human.

Only God is perfect. 

We aspire to that, knowing that we'll never attain it--which is why we realize that only the finished work of Jesus can make us perfect. When He said, "It is finished," He meant it.

Yes, I mess up. Just like you, my not-yet saved friend. I'm forgiven, not perfect. May I explain that to you?

The ones I have a problem with are those journeying next to me--the ones who are walking on the same path as I am with Jesus toward the glory of God--who are quick to judge and point fingers, and slow to forgive and extend mercy. These modern-day Pharisees would do well to observe the fingers pointing back at themselves.

Obviously, continuing to walk in blatant sin is not aspiring to be like Christ. But what about those of us who sincerely try--and fail, attempt to be kind--but are not, and fall short of (what we think are) the expectations of the more mature believers in our midst?

If God forgives us, then should others not forgive us?

But wait---am I not doing the same? Do I not judge and condemn? If not directly (or indirectly--as to someone else) to the person, then in my heart? You may not hear my disapproving tsk-tsk, but God does. The thought may not make it into a fully formed sentence in my brain, but God still hears my accusation:

And she calls herself a Christian?

Yes, I've been guilty of it. So have you.

It's called judgment and condemnation. And it's just as much of a sin as the one we are attempting to call out in another.

If God forgives me, and I am less than perfect, then what gives me the right to place myself above the One who is righteous and able to forgive sin? Who am I to judge another, heaping condemnation onto their perhaps already guilty heart? 

Tsk-tsk, Mary. Look at those fingers pointing back.

Oh, yeah, there's this. And the time I said that. And the ongoing struggle I have with this.

Last week, I mentioned my friend, Andrea's superpower--the ability to correct without condemnation. That's what Jesus did. We would do well to do the same.

Can we learn to overlook the sins of others and focus on our own? Can we practice the power of forgiveness and release others from the expectations we place on them? Can we do that for ourselves? 

Maybe not. Maybe that's why we need to call on the name of Jesus. Because sometimes, it's just too hard. Too hard to be perfect, and too hard to expect anything less from ourselves and from others. Too hard to open our clenched fist that points accusingly away with one finger and defensively back with three.

Yes, all of us sin. Even perfectly imperfect followers of Jesus. Even those of us who dare to call ourselves, "Christian."

But that's the wonderful thing about grace. Jesus extends it to each one of us--while we are still sinners (and while we continue to be sinners)--even though we don't deserve it. Ought we not do the same?

So, let us unclench our fists, uncurl our pointing fingers, and reserve our judgment. Instead, let us open our palms toward heaven to receive what is good:

To act justly
To love mercy
And to walk humbly with [y]our God
Micah 6:8

Bail ó Dhia ort
(The blessing of God on you)


Sharing this blog with some of these lovelies 


  1. Micah 6:8 is my go-to life verse. I'm still "chewing" on the rest of your article. I like the fist analogy. Need to think more about the rest. As always, your way with words is, in a word, stunning.

  2. Micah 6:8--if we could all grasp the enormity, the power--and the simplicity of that verse, our lives would be so enriched! Thanks for your (always!) kind words, dear friend.

  3. Mary, I'm always impressed that God is not ashamed to be called the God of the patriarchs who were imperfect people. What a cool phrase. God is not ashamed to be associated with imperfect people of faith.

    1. And for that I am so grateful!Thanks for visiting, Debbie.

  4. Great topic, Mary! So many believers are discouraged by the judgments of others, including the disappointment they feel in themselves. I touch on these subjects in the book I'm writing on. The title is "Worthy" and reminds the believer that we are not still trying to earn our salvation through the studies or practices we do or don't do. Thanks for your humorous take on all things--including and especially "electrocution!" bwahahaha

    1. Thanks, Beth. Absolutely included in our finger pointing is that disappointment in ourselves! The book sounds great-I can't wait to read it!

  5. "But that's the wonderful thing about grace. Jesus extends it to each one of us--while we are still sinners (and while we continue to be sinners)--even though we don't deserve it. Ought we not do the same?" Your article is so well written and convicting, too, in a good way. We need to be reminded to extend grace to ourselves and others every day. Blessings to you! I'm your neighbor at #SittingAmongFriends.

  6. I love what you said about the fist. All we have to do is make the choice to uncurl our fists and let go, and he does it all from there as he pours his grace into us.

  7. To walk humbly with our God ~ amen. Love your "very real" post, and nodding my head in agreement over here, Mary. I've enjoyed the visit today via #thoughtprovokingThursday.

  8. The humor (must be the Irish in you) and your heart (it must be the family of God in you) - make this such an enjoyable read of such a good truth. I have learned, been humbled by the grace, redemption and lack of condemnation of my God who loved a prodigal enough to allow him not only to wallow in his sin, but a slow walk home into his father's grace - and it is a slow walk, this day by day becoming what God designed us to be. Your post went straight to this mother's heart!

  9. Gotta love the clown picture! It's perfect! (uh, well you know what I mean, hehehe)
    Yes, sometimes it really is hard to forgive the one who hurts us and to remember that we hurt God's Spirit with our sin, too. Praise God that we can call on the name of Jesus and receive help in our time of need!

  10. Years ago there was a Christian song, and part of the lyrics read this way: "If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" Think about it. Some days I don't look much different than anybody else, and I certainly don't resemble (or reflect) Jesus very well. I think part of our roles as ambassadors of Christ is to get out of His way! We believers sometimes *block* an accurate view of Him.

    But oh, may we continue to show the world how He treats those who sin, like us imperfect Christians, and demonstrate that His love outweighs everything else!


  11. This reminds me of the old children's song titled "He's Still Working on Me." We are all works in progress. When we embrace this, I think it helps us be humble and let God work in us to grow us.