So I’ve been in the church world for a while. Which means I’ve heard all the jargon, idioms, and cliches many of us have come to internalize into our vernacular. The thing about following the teachings of the bible, is can become a checklist of standards to judge people with. Creating a sense of superiority, or a basis in which we demonstrate to others how they aren’t quite measuring up. We can wholeheartedly confess that “it’s by grace we have been saved” (Ephesians 2:8) but forget it’s by grace we STAY SAVED.
Many of us can slip into this constant chasing after of this unattainable, idealized standard of our future self. The version of self that never has a lustful thought, says a cuss word, or feels angry. We think, “oh yes, once I get there, then i’ll like myself.”
As my soul has matured over the years, I’ve noticed a greater sensitivity to things which create shame and condemnation. What breaks my heart, is how much I hear shame and condemnation from people who are the experts on God.
I saw a tweet the other day from a well known pastor which said, “Christians should be the most passionate people on the planet!” A few years ago, I would have tweeted this. I would have beat my chest with exuberant zeal shouting “YES! We should be!” But then the storms of life hit me, and it hit me hard.
This message was well intentioned, but it really is just shame in disguise. Think about it: if you are involved in church, trying to love God and love people, but you are battling depression, discouragement, hopelessness, or even suicidal thoughts, this message is nothing more than another way you’re not measuring up! It’s creating more bondage with the very people you are trying to liberate. What if I don’t feel passionate? What if I’m actually really sad? Now all of a sudden, this is just another thing wrong with me. We really should remove the word “should”.
There is a very fine line between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation is like using a bat to bludgeon someone, when all they need is antibiotics. You don’t beat infection out of someone, you medicate it.
Conviction is the surgeons knife which precisely points to areas of growth with hope and joy for the future. Condemnation is more of a general tone of not measuring up to a standard. Conviction uses love, condemnation uses shame. Condemnation is impatient, while conviction is ok with things taking time.
Condemnation is immature correction, conviction is actualized rehabilitation.
Now I know the pastor who tweeted that is well intentioned. And I’m sure if the two of us sat down and talked about it, he would agree. But the problem is there are SO many well intentioned people who are actually just kicking people when they are down. I love what Bill Johnson says that “anything absent of hope, is under the influence of a lie.” If you hear a message, a tweet, a Facebook post, etc, which leaves you mad at yourself, ashamed at your struggle, or anything else having to do with self-hate, you need to remember God speaks in hope, not shame.
Let’s be careful to not let our zeal become another way people aren’t measuring up. Your best days are ahead of you. God is in a good mood. And there is more right with you than you realize.
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Here’s to Loving the Process,