Mere Christianity vs “Perfect” Christianity: Heart Posture

THE “PERFECT CHRISTIAN” FALLACY

Many Christians sometimes live under the pressure of a fallacy that, once a believer, one must “have their act together.” This creates a problem because it undermines one of the key reasons people turn to Christianity to begin with. A person who comes to the faith is initially humbled in admitting they are imperfect, recognizing their need for a Savior and their desire for a fulfilling way to live a life of intention, purpose, and Christ-like love.

One of the problems with the notion of a believer having their act together is that if, once a believer, a person did have their act together, what would be the purpose of continual faith? If the process of becoming a Christ-follower carried the full weight of the journey of faith, what reason would a person have to remain vigilant in the faith, keeping devoted and consistent with prayer life, community, the Bible, and choosing God first above all things? There would be no need if we were made perfect through the commencement of faith. But this is far from the actual truth, and the actual truth is what I want to explore in this article.

THE ‘WALK OF FAITH’ LIFE DOESN’T END

When a person first gives their life to Christ, among the first actions usually urged by spiritual leaders of a church is to get involved. Whether by life group or volunteer work, the purpose is for the believer to get to know others within the community of Christ-followers. But, why? Is this ritual-based, or perhaps a per-church requirement? Very simply, the purpose is to encourage, uplift, and support the new believer in their faith walk. Christians not only need to continue to strengthen their faith in Christ, but also, outside support from those around them when facing the spiritual struggles of life (I.e. Doubt, defeat, depression, grief, etc.). A Christian is not called to walk their journey alone, but we are called to be part of one ‘body’ (metaphorical for ‘community’).

We, as believers, are called to reflect the Truth of Christ and be an example for others, encouraging one another in our adversities (1 Timothy 4:12) (Hebrews 10: 24-25). We are called not to be haughty, but to be able to associate with people of low positions (Romans 12:16). To be a Christ-follower is not to have the attitude of a conceited critic, looking down from the throne of pride, but rather, faith calls us to be dependent on Christ and to love others the way He first loved us (John 15:12). We can’t love unconditionally if are fixated on the belief that we are made perfect through the mere professing of faith. Surely, we are not made “perfect” in Him if, by the professing of our faith, we become so proud of our title as a Christian that we mistake loving others for closing others off from experiencing His overflowing love through our expression of gratitude for God’s grace (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

Undoubtedly, a new believer needs the nourishment of support from other believers who understand the difficulties and struggles of faith: the dryness of despair in a hurting world, the chaos of spiritual warfare, and the heaviness of the occasional stint of doubt as a result of experiencing this world at its cruelest. We, as Christ-followers, never have our act together, in the sense that we are never in so much control not to need any help. It would be beneficial to remember and remain aware that grace is given to us through Jesus’s love and volition, and not because of any act of our own. After all, it was while we were still sinners that He came and died for us (Romans 5:8). Therefore, actions are not a prerequisite for grace, but a means by which we can express our thanks for what He did on the cross.

THE DANGEROUS GAVEL OF CONDEMNATION

Still, other times Christians face pressure from unbelievers to ‘be better’ because, after identifying as a Christian publicly, they are met with criticism for not being a more “perfect” (I.e. Nice, selfless, compassionate, friendly, mannered, gentle, forgiving) person.

Critics sometimes stigmatize Christians as the failure of a promise towards perfection when they see a believer act “out of line,” because there is a fallacious notion that once a believer, faith makes the person “better” than an unbeliever. But this problematic assumption is rooted from people having witnessed believers who treat faith like a graduation certificate in the morality of life, behaving as though they know better than they really do, waving around a dangerous combination of Christianity and condemnation like a gavel.

There are many unbelievers with previous experiences in which a person treated them unfairly or unjustly while identifying themselves as Christian. These actions do not align with what Jesus intended for the community of Christ-followers to hold true to (loving others the way He first loved us), but they do not defeat Christ or His work by any means. Believers must be diligent and committed in lifting each other up to continue putting into action loving those who don’t understand the life-changing invitation to relationship with Christ, being renewed in the spirit, nor the significant role humility plays in choosing surrender to Christ.

AUTHENTIC MOTIVES IN A FALLEN WORLD

The notion of a Christian having his act together has an authentic root, however. Generally, depending on the true heart posture of the person before giving his life to Christ, a person who becomes a believer has a genuine desire to improve the manner in which he lives his life, the passion with which he loves his family and friends, and to express a more Christ-like acceptance/love/grace towards strangers. These intentions are byproducts of the Holy Spirit working in a person and moving him towards closer alignment with relationship with Jesus.

When a Christian speaks or acts in an unloving way towards a person, the claim that the believer is a bad example of the faith is a reality check that any believer is just as imperfect and flawed as any unbeliever. However, the difference is between a believer and nonbeliever is that the believer wants to improve, and to do so as a reflection of Christ’s impact on their life. The point to take away from this is the importance of discerning and distinguishing between two heart postures:

1. A person who is emptily professing they are a Christian but not acting or speaking from a genuinely Christ-like heart posture.

2. A person who identifies as a Christ-follower, makes mistakes, then repents; making noticeable changes in behavior to display Christ’s influence in their life.

While number 1 is refutable, number 2 is increasingly important to consider. The only authentically good change a believer can make is to turn their heart to Christ in humility and try again.

“REFLECTIONS” OF CHRIST, NOT ‘REPLICAS’

Christianity is merely a word until a person depicts Christ-like qualities. That means the actions of a Christ-centered individual coincide with the Truth that the only perfection that exists does so through Christ, and is merely reflected through a person who identifies as a follower. Put differently, perfection exists only through Christ (God incarnate), and therefore, to expect more “better-ness” from a person is too high of a standard from which to judge. There is always room for more improvement, so the best action to take is to choose Christ, move forward, and humble ourselves to receive His grace again and again when we mess up—which we will—taking responsibility for our sinful choices but always turning to Jesus for the strength and grace to try again. His grace is sufficient, His love unending. If we can learn to view others through a more Christ-like lens, we will then come to see others with a deeper sense of empathy, understanding, patience, grace, forgiveness, and love, while not looking down on them with unnecessary condemnation. Only Jesus is Jesus. Believers are His followers, and we must humble ourselves constantly to be redirected by Him. We are nothing without Him, but because of Him, we are made new in God’s eyes, and that is the actual Truth that will set us free from ourselves, others’ criticism, the lies of this world, and the choice to live our lives the way we would without Him.

LET’S CONNECT

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A Christian Dilemma: Hypocrisy Vs. Authenticity

How can we explain the contention between the believer who fails to exemplify his faith through word and action, and the unbeliever who looks down on faith as a fallacy of the age—judging the believer based on the very moral and spiritual grounds they claim to reject in the first place? I would like to take a closer look at this issue here.

IF NO ONE IS PERFECT, THEN WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

One of the most tragic arguments baffling the mind of the unbeliever is the idea that once a believer, a person is automatically perfect. The reason this is a fallacy is because no one belief makes a person perfect. Digging deeper still reveals the imperative argument demanding a definition for human “perfection.” Some might expect perfection to come in the form of character or moral pursuit—and if this is so, what does a perfect character with scrupulous moral pursuits look like?  

In my previous article, “Disbelief & Finding My Way Home: Part 2,” I explain what I believe Christianity is. To reiterate, here is how I define Christianity: 

putting my relationship with Jesus first and seeking Him when I forget to do that. Being a Christian means humbly pursuing Him and coming back to Him when I lose track of that pursuit. Christians are not perfect people who have decided to stop pursuing a life of denial, nor do we think we’re perfect because of our decision to accept Jesus; Christians are sinners who recognize their sin and acknowledge their need for a Messiah capable of and willing to extend mercy, grace, and love through sacrificing Himself in order to prevent us from experiencing the eternal judgment that we actually deserve.”

That said, I do not believe faith makes any person perfect; we’re all capable of and prone to flaws—before and after faith. A person’s faith, if anything, gives them more reason to predict their failure to ever become perfect by humbly admitting their need for a Messiah in Christ. Again, if anything, a Christian recognizes more so their need for a Messiah in Christ because of their imperfections. In other words, Christianity doesn’t perfect; it humbles. Where do people get this idea that Christ-followers believe they have everything figured out? From Christians who project their faith as the moral insignia of pride. Let me explain.

MORAL DOMINANCE & FIGHTING THE WRONG BATTLE

When a Christ-follower gets caught in the trap of believing faith-based morality is grounds for ostracism or for criticizing the unbeliever, the humility of their faith as been compromised for the pride in their choices. The tragedy is divulged in how a Christian disparaging atheism’s lack of belief is no more effective or correct than an unbeliever condemning Christianity’s open-mindedness. What needs to be noted here is the dichotomy revealing how the misplaced disparaging of the atheist’s lack of belief allows no room for humility or compassion in the censorious believer. Capitalizing on the belief that one is more right than another does nothing short of mistakenly prove to the unbeliever that what is most important to the Christian is their pride in their beliefs and how it trumps doubt, when in fact the fight is taking place on a different battlefield altogether: The believer is convinced proving their belief to be correct is more important than being a living example of how faith in Jesus as Lord changes one’s life from the inside—which has nothing at all to do with winning arguments, but renewing hearts

The abusive treatment of the believer towards the atheist is ultimately the grounds for which the unbeliever blindly claims faith is a transparent fallacy. Understandably, from this perception—the source of the believer’s faith seems grounded in judgment, condemnation, prideful morality, and the careless freedom to live in the name of a faith which seemingly has no impact on behavior, words, thoughts, or interactions. In other words, a faith which has no bearing on renewing a person’s intrinsic humanity or lifestyle.

THE PURPOSE OF CHRISTIAN METAPHORS 

There are a lot of metaphors used in Christianity. Why? There is a larger reality within grasp which does not present itself to the naked human eye—that which is tangible through the senses of faith itself. What does this mean? This means that the purpose of metaphors in Christianity is to examine that which we can barely fathom with our intellect or imagination, let alone our senses. Not to be misperceived as impossible to the imagination, Heaven itself is used both as a metaphor for the fantastical (where the very nature of painlessness and deathlessness coexist with permanent bliss and happiness) which can be sourced within our very soul through faith in Christ; as well as a literal place and location. Metaphors are not used to divide the truth of the Bible from reality, but to express how such extremities can only be gathered by taking a leap of faith out of our expectations and comfort zones and placing ourselves into the space of hope. Hope for something beyond words, beyond this reality; transcendence.

THE DILEMMA OF IDENTITY AND CHRISTIAN HYPOCRISY

Timothy Keller, in his book Making Sense Of God, writes:

Theologian Miroslav Volf summarizes four ways that we can set and bolster our self-worth by excluding others. We can literally kill or drive the Other out of our living space. A more subtle and common way is exclusion by assimilation. We can demand that they conform completely to our own patterns and standards, not allowing them to express any difference at all. “We will refrain from vomiting you out… if you let us swallow you up.” A third form of exclusion could be called “dominance.” We let you live among us and maintain your identity, but only if you assume an inferior race—not getting certain jobs, attaining particular levels of pay, or living in certain neighborhoods. The fourth kind of exclusion is abandonment. That is, we exclude the Other by disdaining and ignoring them, taking no thought for their needs. The reason we indulge in these attitudes and practices is that by denouncing and blaming the other it gives us “the illusion of sinlessness and strength.”

When a Christian denounces the unbeliever for their doubt instead of loving them in their unbelief, they make the mistake of identifying with the egocentrism of pride rather than the selfless character of Christ. When this happens, pride takes the position of one the four aforementioned reflections of self-worth. But when a believer’s self-worth is not rooted in Christ, it is automatically rooted in the neediness of the world. How then can we be reborn if we still cling to the world? We cannot. We either surrender ourselves by intrinsically and authentically picking up our cross and following Him (rebirth), or we end up abandoning our cross for someone else to bear and call them weak when they won’t even carry their own (claiming the “Christian” title without “walking the walk” of a relationship with Jesus). 

CHRISTIAN FACADES AND PLURALISM

The choice we make (how seriously we take our faith) defines the example we are for the world. When a person claims to be a “Christian” while still clutching the ways of the world, the unbeliever witnesses hypocrisy and assumes this contradiction to be the face of all Christ-followers. While we do not carry the responsibility of every believer in this world, we do bear the witness of every unbeliever in this world. When we do not take seriously our own faith, we leave room for the unbeliever to view the Christian faith as fallible and indistinguishable from secularism. Pluralism itself is made to look foolishly redundant in the face of Christian hypocrisy as the multifarious religious views suddenly blur together into one conglomeration; a mirage of people pretending rather than rebirthing, clutching for dear life their mental volition instead of surrendering their hearts; closing their eyes rather than opening their minds, and believing in the self—which ultimately deteriorates the soul and crushes our most intrinsic need for selfless, unconditional human connection. 

CALLED FORWARD IN CHRIST

We are called to be sons and daughters of the living Christ. We can complicate the picture of what that looks like, or we can come to grips with the reality that it requires a heart full of humility. We cannot grow in Christ if we are climbing a ladder of egocentrism. Even in faith, the boastful soul does not become vanquished until we have received a heart of humility in God the Father. We receive this when we’ve had enough of ourselves. I found myself dead inside during my adolescence and desperately craved a purpose by the time I was 22. I found that purpose in Christ, but only after I realized I needed to let go of my self-made purpose, which ultimately was disguised in self-deprecation and the turmoil of this world.

Moving forward in faith means letting go of the self to make room for Christ, and in so doing, His thoughts become more of our own. We lose nothing—we gain everything. We gain a new perspective, healthier relationships, more fulfilling desires, and a deeper sense of purpose than we could have imagined was possible. Moving forward in faith—to be taken over by such an abundance of surrender, we completely lose ourselves to the call of Christ to run beyond our self-preserved path of narcissistic hedonism, ahead into the light of recognizing our need—not for the world’s attention or validation, but God’s promises to make us new, to make us right, and to fulfill us completely

TAKEN OVER BY FAITH

If we truly have been changed, what does that look like? Compassion, grace, mercy, love, peace, empathy, boldness, faithfulness, gratefulness, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, and selflessness. Altruism merely becomes the floorboards of the character we are called into through Jesus. In so shining our light back to Him, we do not mistake what our faith translates into, but we express to the world how belief in Christ needs to be: All-consuming, all-renewing, and fully satiating. When we understand the love of God, we don’t miss our old selves, we beg for more of His heart to flood our own—and this, truly, is the sweetest form of desperation in this life we will ever come face-to-face with.

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this article with the people around you. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. May God remind us all that the picture of Christianity looks like Jesus. Be blessed, readers!!

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