I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating about my “ministry” today. That word sounds so stuffy and prideful when applied to me. I’m not a minister and I’m not a preacher. I’m a mother who composes songs, writes blogs, is scribbling down a few novels, and likes to sing and play the piano. I would never dream of putting my “ministry” on the same level of seriousness as that of a pastor or missionary. However, I have a “ministry” in the sense that I am a witness — a muddy and blurred reflection of Christ — to the world. I have a persona, a public image, and a small platform, and I also happen to be a Christian.
Quite frankly, that terrifies me.
You see, Jesus Christ is Divine and Righteous God. He is incomprehensibly perfect, loving, merciful, and wise. You could say, he’s wholly holy.
I am not. How can someone like me ever dare claim to represent him?
I am faulty. I only tend to love people who love me too. My patience has definite limits. I am frequently foolish, and I often say and do the wrong things.
Nevertheless, I have this responsibility to shine Christ’s light in a dark world. And I can tell you, being Christlike is a daunting aspiration.
However, even as I write this, Jesus calls to me from the pages of Scripture. A familiar voice pops into my head uninvited, like a post-it note left on my subconscious by God:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Thanks to redemption, my righteousness is not a work required for salvation.
I recently saw a comment on Facebook by a woman who said, “I’m not perfect. I bet I sin every single day.”
Every day? Ha! Try every minute of every day. If I were to ever attempt to be perfect, I would fail so miserably and categorically.
Every time I grow impatient, I’m sinning. Every breath of air and every beat of my heart is a gift from God, and every time I’m ungrateful for them, I’m sinning. Every time I grow arrogant that I’ve “ministered” to someone, I’m sinning. Every time I don’t credit my meager goodness to the work of God’s Spirit in my soul, I am sinning.
Nevertheless, there is no feeling of guilt in this heart. Overwhelm? Yes, but not guilt. I am not weighed down by my responsibility to aspire to perfection. Called to be perfect I am, but required to be perfect I am not.
Jesus lived a perfect life, and credited his righteousness to my account.
Imagine sin like it’s financial debt. Say I owe God $995 Billion. I can never pay that back, no matter how many good deeds I do. To make matters worse, every time I sin I go deeper into debt. Do you find the US National Debt to be an overwhelming figure? Well, our souls are even worse off. But suddenly, Christ intervened and paid our debt outright; absolutely, 100%, utterly, and completely. If we accept his generosity, we’re back in the black, never to dip into the red again.
Now, when God looks at me, he doesn’t see my sin; my vanity, selfishness, impatience, and pettiness. He sees Jesus having mercy on a sick child’s father. He sees Jesus talking humbly to the woman at the well. He sees Jesus crying out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He sees Jesus in all his perfect, loving, merciful, miraculous goodness.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”? Well, as Christians, we’re “Saved if you do, saved if you don’t.”
I still strive after perfection, because I love Jesus and am grateful to him. I can’t get lazy and say, “My sins are forgiven, so I’ll just keep sinning.” Absolutely not! Or as Paul says, “By no means!” If we truly love God, we’ll desire to please him. By God’s immeasurable grace, this imperfect daughter of God is counted as perfect because of Christ’s work on her behalf. Yet, by God’s immeasurable grace, God also sent his Spirit to trigger a desperate yearning in my heart to be more and more like Jesus.
And yet I feel a weight. A weight of responsibility. It is not a weight placed on me by a forgiving God. It is a weight placed on me by my own unforgiving conscience.
“You’re a Christian,” said a random stranger on a Facebook news feed. “You aren’t supposed to judge people.”
He’s kind of sort of right. I’m supposed to be loving. I’m supposed to be humble enough to witness even to people who are guilty of unspeakable sin. However, God does not call me to ignore sin. God doesn’t call me to participate in sin. If anything, God calls me to lovingly war against sin, both in my own heart and in the world around me.
“Lovingly war against sin.” How’s THAT for a complicated concept?
But there it is.
Therein lies my dilemma.
Therein lies my sense of overwhelming inadequacy.
Please, I beg you: When I sin, don’t blame Jesus. When I’m at fault, don’t fault God. When I fail, don’t claim that God’s redemption is a farce, or that the sanctification of the Spirit is ineffective.
Because it’s not.
God, being the unfathomable, mysterious, and creative being that he is, chose to conduit his perfection through imperfect beings like me. My wiring may be faulty and prone to sputter and spark, but the power is on, the power is real, and the current is ridiculously strong.
When a light bulb burns out, you don’t blame the electric company. Just so, when I grow dark, please don’t blame Jesus! By God’s grace, I’ll change my behavior. I’ll swap that bad light bulb out for a bright and shining new one. It may take me some time. I may stupidly take the bad light bulb out of its socket and try screwing it back in again several different ways. Eventually though, God will patiently tap me on the shoulder, show me the error of my ways, and drive me to repentance by replacing my bad works with fresh good works.
“And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.” Mark 14:72
By God’s grace, you won’t view my sins as a sign of Christ’s inadequacy.
By God’s grace, you won’t view my hypocrisy as proof that God is a myth.
By God’s grace I will break down like Peter, and weep for my sin, which is already forgiven.
By God’s grace — by grace alone — you’ll see Jesus’ righteousness through the disaster that is me, just as I know God the Father mercifully and faithfully does.
And if, by some miracle, you do indeed witness the Spirit working amidst the mess of my life, please know that the only reason you have that ability is because God himself is working in your heart too.
Answer the call.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7