I continue to have my comfortable “bad” Christian apple cart overturned by a group of troublemakers from Phoenix. I have mentioned several times that my faith world is being rocked by the book TrueFaced and the TrueFaced Romans Bible study. A recent romp through the high definition television channels triggered today’s grace episode. I stumbled on a concert by an artist named Lee Ann Womack. She was beginning a new tune so I lingered. The song made me laugh and then made me think.
A bit of set up for the lyrics. Apparently Lee Ann’s ex-boyfriend has met another and the upcoming wedding announcement is in the paper. A picture of the new love triggers a wave of jealous, immature and childish behavior. She thinks the new woman doesn’t take a very good picture and blacks out a couple of teeth for good measure. Yep, she responds like most of us have at one time or another. Here is the chorus.
It may be my family’s redneck nature
Rubbin’ off, bringin’ out unlady-like behavior
It sure ain’t Christian to judge a stranger
But I don’t like her
She may be a stranger who spends all winter
Bringin’ the homeless blankets and dinner
A regular Nobel Peace Prize winner
But I really hate her
I’ll think of a reason later
Is that not typical of our nature? I hate her. I’ll think of a reason later. With all due respect to Lee Ann Womack that response has nothing to do with the family’s redneck nature. That response is from the sin nature that is common to everyone’s family.
I have had the exact response when someone threatens my turf. I decide that I don’t like someone before I know much, if anything, about that person. I am just not honest enough to admit that I don’t need a reason. I always have a rationalization or catalogue of grievances.
That judgmental behavior is particularly destructive in the body of Christ and in the church. The message of TrueFaced is off the charts annoying. They teach convincingly by using tricks like trusting God’s Word. They argue that grace changes how we treat each other when we sin. It reorients all our relationships. Our fundamental identity is one of saints who sin rather than sinners who are saved by grace. Don’t get sidetracked. The book is clear that we are sinners saved by grace when we first put our trust in Jesus as Savior. But after that landmark event occurs that identity (sinner) is no longer who we are. We are now saints who occasionally sin. That simple spiritual paradigm shift in how I view other followers of Jesus (and myself) is changing me dramatically.
The authors of TrueFaced write that when we view other Christians as sinners trying to become saints we naturally demand that they work on their sin to be in right relationship with us. When our theology gives us permission to see Christians as sinners, we give ourselves permission to reject them. Ouch.
I realized, sadly, that I have done this. Too often. Now as I am learning to view these flawed and very human fellow travelers as saints I cease trying to compare my sin and see if I am doing “better”. It doesn’t matter. We are in this together. God’s word says I am a saint because of Jesus. So are you if you have trusted Him for salvation.
Realizing that is how God views us should change everything. That is the message of Paul to the church at Colossae.
…you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (Colossians 3, NLT)
I would be disingenuous (Christianeze for lying) if I said I have never enjoyed making judgments and thinking bad things about fellow believers. The old nature revels in that kind of behavior. It is just hard to reconcile that approach with Paul’s message above. So I am learning (painfully and slowly) to view all of you irritating and messy Christians as saints. I am learning to trust that what God says is true about you and about me. I am learning to love you because of grace. To paraphrase Lee Ann Womack, I’ll think of “another” reason later. For starters, grace is enough of a reason for now.