This blog has been a long time coming – months, to be exact. I’ve thought a lot about it, prayed a lot about it, talked to friends about it, and avoided writing about it because I fear that my words will be inadequate in communicating my viewpoints. But I’m taking the leap of faith, and hoping that you will share your thoughts in response to this.
In my exposure to the Bible, my own life, as well as a fair amount of modern-day Christians’ lives, I believe there’s a major disconnect in the way we live. I hold strongly to the idea that an encounter with Jesus should change the way we see ourselves. God’s character leaves no room for a belief that His redemption involves everything but our self-perception. If He changes the way we see Him and His role in our lives, as well as the way we see the world and each other, then surely He must also change the way we see ourselves.
You see, I’m most comfortable thinking of myself as pitiful and worthless and depraved without God. And none of those words are false descriptors of my sinful nature separate from the pursuit of a relentless God. But what does it mean for me to take off the old nature and put on the new, with regards to my self-perception? How do I live in a body of sin but answer boldly to the names that I am now called? Righteous, redeemed, made perfect, blameless, forgiven, a co-heir with Christ, set apart, justified. Have those words now become a part of the indecipherable mumble that fills our churches and communities and conversations? Or should they be my new self-descriptors because they are in accordance with God’s word?
Let’s take Paul, for example. A mass murderer of Christians, a social paragon, and the last person you’d ever expect to be a co-author of the Bible. But after his encounter with God, he doesn’t live in a constant state of feeling worthless and unworthy to live out the calling God has for him. While I’m sure he probably struggled with it some, he lived out his new victorious identity, becoming one of the founding fathers of our faith. Yet if he lived in our Christian world today, would he have felt bold enough to embrace his new identity and not cling to the old?
We’ve built this safe barrier between our self-perception and God’s perception of us. We treat him like a wonderful, biased parent holding a distorted lens through which he sees us. “Oh how nice that he sees me as beautiful and redeemed and blameless, but I live in reality and we all know that’s not the case.” That is me – and has been for many years. But the question God has been asking of me lately is, “Where is the victory in that?” He didn’t come to make us aware of our sin, give us a ticket to an eternity with him, and leave us on earth to wallow in the misery of who we used to be. His salvation plan includes living a victorious life right here, right now. How are our lives supposed to be a testimony when we seem even more miserable than the non-Christians we’re trying to point to Jesus? Why would I want to be a Christian if it’s an everlasting journey of feeling worthless and depraved?
It’s easier, and even more readily applauded, to remain at the foot of the cross shaking in our boots because we cannot believe that God Almighty would take on our sins and die for us. Don’t get me wrong – that is the singular most incredible reality, the most awe-inspiring, bring-me-to-my-knees-and-make-me-weep type of reality. Yet at what point do we accept that He already has taken on our sins? Because it seems like we take them back from Him everyday and wear them with shame, and even pride. Surrendering the entirety of who I am to who He is means surrendering my self-descriptors for His. True life begins at the foot of the cross, but calls us into grander adventures than we would have ever imagined for ourselves. When I refer to myself as a sinner, I’m setting the bar there. I have no real motivation to make better choices because “we’re all sinners anyway.” But what happens if I embrace the sainthood that has been given me through Jesus? What if I set the bar higher? Would my reaction be different? I’d like to think so. And if I boast in anything that I may have done or created, I would be boasting in the One who gave me the ability to succeed. I don’t want to be a Christian who can’t accept a compliment or admit to ever doing anything well – it doesn’t bring glory to my King.
I would hate to live my entire life on this earth constantly calling myself the old names I’m used to; telling God that I’m worthless and refusing to go forth in victory. No warrior thinks she’s worthless else she’d be completely unfit for battle. Sometimes, I feel like God says to me, “Please just stop talking and listen to me. You weren’t good enough, but I have made you worthy. Now stop living in the past and go live out the victory I’ve already won for you.”
I’m still living in the tension of what I’ve always called myself and what God says to be true of me today. I haven’t figured this out – there are certain areas of my life where I have embraced this truth and it is intoxicating in the freedom it brings. Because my righteousness or justification is not as a result of anything I’ve done or could ever do. And there are still very many areas that I struggle with. But living in a body of sin and struggling against sin does not make me a sinner any more than living in America for the last six years has made me an American. My passport is still green, not blue.
So what does living this way look like? Where do you find yourself on this issue? I would love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment if you’d like! And thank you so very much for caring enough about what I think to come read my blog.