Holier Than Thou

There are days when people are jerks.

Being human, I want to be a jerk back.

But I’m usually not.

I usually vent to a close friend (or 9), and move on.

I tell myself to be “the better person”, turn the other cheek, and forgive (that pesky F word!).

When it’s the same person doing the same thing over and over and over and over again… I remember that Jesus said to forgive someone 7 x 70 times (That’s 490 times)…

When I start keeping track, God tells me that I should love those who hate me…

And then I remember that verse in  1 Corinthians that says love keeps no record of wrongs…

And I’m back where I started telling myself to be “the better person.”

Maybe some would call this a “Holier Than Thou” attitude… except I’m not trying to be better than the person who is harassing me…  I’m trying to be better than myself.  I want to be “the better person” that God pulled me out of my sin to become. I am not self-righteous, but I was given the righteousness of Christ to walk upright, no longer a slave to sin. And while I’m still getting my bearings from being chained down for so long, God has grace enough to catch me every time I stumble.

So every time that I get upset and want to give to someone what I think they “deserve” I remind myself that I deserve hell. If God hadn’t pulled me out of my old life, I would still be headed in that direction. It is with that heavy conviction that the desire to pray for those who persecute me begins to stir in my heart. It is with that knowledge that I can willingly forgive any trespass against me, because I know that the same was done for me when I didn’t deserve it.

Sometimes I wish God wouldn’t give me the things I ask for in the moments when I’m feeling pretty strong in my faith… because it’s in those moments when I ask Him to make me more like Him… but God doesn’t just snap His fingers for requests like that. He will give opportunities to grow into those characteristics. And even though I don’t enjoy the opportunities themselves, I’m thankful that He loves me enough to refine me a little more each day, so that I can be a little more like Him.

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” — 1 Peter 1:15-16

The F Word.

Before I begin, I would like to just clarify that becoming a Christian has been the best decision I’ve ever made, or will ever make, in my entire life and I never want to go back to my old life…And this post is mostly me kicking myself in the butt…

But being a Christian is sometimes the worst.

Before I became a Christian, I thought a lot less about my behavior and feelings. Ignorance is bliss, like all clichés, was birthed out of truth. I was happy to hold grudges and feel justified when I was hurt or wronged. I wasn’t all that interested in forgiving people. If you messed up, it was “have a nice life” and I was done with you. I wasn’t heartless, I just liked feeling right. I didn’t care to see the hurt in others when my own ego was bruised. Who isn’t like that?

Then Jesus called me and was like “Hey, I’ll forgive you.” and I was all like “For what?”

…He had a pretty long list…

And so  I was so relieved He was willing to forgive me and that there was nothing that He could not forgive me for (unforgivable isn’t even in his vocabulary!)… but then I found out that His forgiveness was conditional.

Get ready for a buzz kill…

 Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (emphasis added…obviously)

UGH!

Knowing that, it makes it really hard when someone wrongs you… because you have passages like “turn the other cheek” and “forgive or you won’t be forgiven” popping into your head. After going through the Bible, you find out that unforgiveness is the root of bitterness, and bitterness will eat you alive and keep your heart hardened so you can’t receive blessings… that’s the hardest part for me… knowing that I’m wrong, even when someone else was wrong first, and knowing that I’m standing in the way of the blessings God has for me.

But what about the big things? The horrendous, gross, malicious actions of others intentionally inflicted upon people for the hell of it? Are those so easily forgivable? How can that make for a just God?

I’m always amazed at stories of people who have gone through horrendous ordeals and can still willingly forgive the people who wronged them. Many people know Joyce Meyer’s background of sexual abuse at the hand of her father as a child. Another woman, Shelley Hundley, had a similar story of abuse as a child, but she was assaulted by a pastor while her parents were serving as missionaries in Colombia. She has an amazing book called A Cry for Justice: Overcome Anger, Reject Bitterness, and Trust in Jesus Who Will Fight For You. In the book, she talks about how every wrong will be made right. We can either say that it was paid for on the cross, or we can trust that Jesus will come back one day with one thing on His mind: Justice.

That sounds super intense… but if you’ve read Isaiah 63… it kind of IS intense… He comes back with His robe all stained with blood, and He’s all like, I didn’t have anything clean to wear… ALL my clothes are this stained because I’ve been too busy kicking ass and taking names to go to the dry cleaner’s. (I’m the worst Biblical paraphraser… go read it yourself!)

So it basically boils down to this: Forgiveness isn’t a feeling, it’s a decision. You can decide that Jesus died on the cross, not just for your sins, but also for the sins of others that have hurt you… or you can decide to hold on to it simply because you want to be “right.”  Sometimes making that decision is hard because your feelings are hurt and the person didn’t even apologize! I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve sat on the floor and just cried bitter tears waiting to “get over it” and thinking that there are so many worse things out there happening that it isn’t even a big deal…

That’s why I say being a Christian is sometimes the worst. Because you know what you SHOULD do… but it doesn’t make it any easier. That’s why I love this passage:

 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. — Romans 7:18-25

In it’s own little way, this verse is my justification when I’m feeling upset or angry and can’t really find the motivation to let it go just yet… Not that it’s OK, but that it’s not a struggle unique to me. If Paul, who is a million miles ahead of me in his walk with God, struggled to do what he knew he should do, maybe I’m not doing as bad as I feel I am in the moments when my feelings overtake me, and I’m not acting “very Christian.”

Anyway… I think only like 5 people even read anything I write, so I mostly only write things that I need to hear myself, and sometimes try to give you a little pep talk at the end, just in case you’re a lot like me…

So just get over it. And forgive, even if no one has said sorry yet, because it’s for your own benefit…and if that doesn’t help, just remember how much you have to be forgiven for…which is fun to think about…not (Can you tell I have some forgiving to do?).

Or remember that Jesus is coming again, and if you just pass that hurt along to Him, He will make it right, and maybe He’ll let you ride shotgun and you can pound your fist into your hand while saying “someone’s gonna get it…”

(I’m just kidding, you probably won’t be invited because Jesus says vengeance is His… but it’s fun to think about sometimes…)

The end.

 

 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.”  — Luke 6:37

Fallen.

Life is hard. It’s a truth we all think we’ve accepted, but sometimes we forget that life is hard for other people, too. Over the last school year, I had the privilege to serve as caregroup leader. It is probably the most eye-opening experience I could ever have at the age of 23. I’ve had the opportunity to see people’s potential through the eyes of God. I’ve had to see people struggle. I’ve had to learn grace and forgiveness, even when I was right and should have been on the receiving end of an apology. I also had to learn how to answer tough questions.

A few years ago, I picked up a copy of “Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Toughest Hour.” by Gayle Haggard, the wife of Ps. Ted Haggard. Before I read the book, I had actually never heard of him or the scandal. I don’t know why I picked up a copy, the title just kind of spoke to somewhere down in my heart. After reading the book, something changed in me. I always thought that if my (future) husband were to ever cheat on me, I would walk away. I would hope that would never happen in the first place, but having read this book, I found a new level of grace.

I am more willing to accept that people are just people. We all fall down, some of us just do it more publically. We all would hope that the leaders of our church were immune to the temptations of this world, but the simple fact is that they are not. I had someone ask me if they should still listen to Benny Hinn’s sermons even though he and his wife had marital trouble. Instead of answering, I asked them this question: Does this trial in his life negate the truth of the words he has spoken? After all, isn’t that what they wanted to know? If a person does one bad thing, does everything they have ever done go into the garbage?

As humans, we love to hold grudges and keep the upper hand. To tell you the truth, I really had a hard time listening to people sing the praises of Joel Osteen after I heard some remarks he made on Larry King Live. I thought, as a pillar of the Christian community, the fact that he could say that he doesn’t know if Jesus is the only way to Heaven is just crazy. But then God reminded me about Peter denying Christ in a moment of fear, and I realized that I could forgive Joel Osteen.

In the same way, we treat our political champions like they are God. We love when they say things we like, but if they go off of our agenda in even one way, we drop them like we’ve been burned. But I have to tell you, Americans, that people are just people, and there is no one out there who will agree with you 100% of the time. No one is going to always make you happy. I have done it. I loved Chris Christie when he was yelling at the teachers union thugs. I loved Marco Rubio until he joined a gang. I loved Rand Paul while he was filibustering against drones. But they all have their faults, and I was ready to leave them in the dust. Maybe I don’t want them to be president anymore, but I definitely want them on my team. I don’t want to put them down just so that I can feel like my opinion is better and more “right.”

I don’t want this to seem like a “you have to settle” post. I really don’t like being told that conservatives need to change their core values to get more people into their camp. I agree that there are more outreach opportunities, but to change who you are to get what you want will never end with satisfaction. I just want people to realize that we don’t have to be 100% in agreement with everyone in order to stand beside them. We are all going to say things that sting a little, or rub us the wrong way. We need to learn how to react better, then maybe things will start to change.

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19