Some time ago I finished a book on the fear of man, and how it's manifested in different ways in our modern today. I realized that I wasn't any different. My life, when I looked at it, was run through--like streaky bacon!--with many of these types of fears.
The greatest one--because it seemed the most legitimate one--was the fear that my imperfections would ruin my witness for Christ.
Basically how this worked out was: 'If people don't find me a nice person, they'll automatically criticize or think badly of my faith. Similarly, if they find me nice, I'm witnessing for Christ, because they should realize that Christ is why I'm trying to be a nice person.'
I was afraid of myself, of my imperfections. I was afraid people would see my down days and my selfish side and my unreasonable moods, that sometimes my concern for them was for all the wrong reasons. That I was superficial, or insincere, or just plain exhausted and tired--tired of trying to be a 'nice person'.
I was afraid that people would write me off as a hypocrite and immediately think Christianity was some sort of fake, shallow religion of affectation.
It was starting to burden me, this fear--that unless people find you a nice person all the time, you're not witnessing to them about Christ, you're not being a good Christian.
For once in my life I stepped back from this mindset and took a good hard look at it.
Being a Christian does not equal being a nice person.
I've heard this same realization in many testimonies of people, like myself, from Christian homes. It was a big stumbling block to many of them. I thought I had to become a good person to become a Christian, and so for the longest time I thought it was impossible to be saved...I thought being a Christian meant you were practically sinless, like the Christians around me seemed to be...
Similarly, I worried whether people would find me a nice person because I vaguely assumed that being a nice person was witnessing for Christ. That the more people liked me, the more they would see through me how much Christ was worth loving and living for.
This is true in a sense--Christ's love, and our subsequent love for Him, should transform our lives and relationships with selflessness. The people around us should sense a difference and a selfless sincerity in us that will be earthly reflections of the real thing: Christ.
'Being nice', something shallow that anyone could achieve with some self-control and empathy, would probably be better seen as a side-effect than the goal.
Christ calls us to something greater and deeper than just being a nice person.
Christ Himself did not live in continual favor of everyone around Him, though He certainly left impressions of His pure and selfless care all around Him, 'growing in favor with God and man'. Christ did not live His life dictated by whether the people around Him thought He was nice or not. Love was merely the result of the Truth He preached and it did not become an idol.
And then I realized that this was the opposite of what the Gospel was. The Gospel centers on the hard truth that despite all the nice 'redemptive' sides of us, the nice person we can make ourselves seem with a bit of effort, the nice notions that actually we're not that thoroughly bad, we are thoroughly and completely lost in our sin and helpless in our depravity.
Sin was that serious for God's solution to be so significant.
Gone is the pleasant but impossible notion that Christians = nice people.
By definition of the Gospel they believe, Christians of all people should be the most aware of their faults, of their imperfections--because only then can they be most in touch with grace, most alive to Christ and their need of Him.
By definition of the Gospel they believe, Christians of all people should be the most honest about their imperfections because not only do they acknowledge they are so far gone that there is no help for them, they also believe that, miraculously, there's still a happy ending...
It's like someone who knows he has cancer in the last stage. What does he care about trying to hide it, since he's so far gone? Then suppose the doctor tells him that a 100% reliable cure has been found, even for his hopeless case, and that he can confidently expect to be completely cured.
And then only, love.
When we are most humble, most honest about ourselves and others, we are liberated to love them to a degree of selflessness that we couldn't reach otherwise.
Our imperfections should be things we fight. But they should not be things we try to hide.
The way we respond and deal with our imperfections is the greatest witness--way more than a lifetime of shallow niceness.
A Christian who loses his temper, lashing out with furious stinging words or even actions that have nothing of Christ in them. Then, driven by his love for Christ, he finds he is unable to bear continuing in sin, though the struggle that it costs him with his flesh almost kills him.
He comes to ask for forgiveness, in broken, bleeding humility so raw that it humbles you in witnessing it.
This is a better witness than a lifetime of not losing your temper, in which people would simply assume you were born good-natured or had a high level of tolerance.
It is when you prove to be just as human as them that the power of Christ shines clearest through you. Just as light shines best, not through a massive concrete wall, but through a pane of glass--brittle, transparent, and all but nothing in itself. Its very weakness and insignificance makes it the best medium to see and appreciate the beauty of the light penetrating it.
'...For My strength is made perfect in weakness.'
2 Corinthians 12:9
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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