By Ted Schroder,
Perry Noble, pastor of NewSpring Church, Anderson, SC writes, The reality is that every person we lock eyes with on Sunday morning (including the person we saw in the mirror this morning) needs grace. Before the service even starts, we’ve all most likely messed something up, lost our temper over a minor issue, or said something we regret. However, when people sit in church pews, the atmosphere isn’t usually conducive to people admitting they have a problem and asking for help. Instead, everyone tries to appear as perfect as possible.
Somehow the perception is that church is for perfect people, for people who have it all together, for people who aren’t overwhelmed by their circumstances. Instead of seeing the church as a place to repent of our brokenness and get support in our weakness, we’ve gotten good at covering up our messes. And even though our lives aren’t perfect and things may not be holding together, we’ve been taught to pretend we’re great, to “fake it till we make it.”…
When someone decides they simply can’t live with the pressure of appearing to be perfect, they drop out of church altogether. They know they’ll never measure up to the perfection club, so they stop trying.
Somehow church has become a place where we don’t want to hear about real issues or relevant struggles or sins we’ve been dealing with all week long. (Perry Noble, Overwhelmed, Winning the War Against Worry, p.30f.)
I can remember sharing with two friends, who were leaders in our church in Texas, the pain we were experiencing with our teenagers at the time and looking to them for support and encouragement. They did not want to hear about our problems. They wanted our family life to be perfect. We could not be real with them about our struggles as parents. As a result we felt isolated. We could not leave the church because I was the pastor! St. John faced a different situation. People were leaving his church because they felt they were more perfect than others. They did not want to hear about their own shortcomings, their own sin. They did not want to admit that they had a problem and needed help. They were covering up and pretending they were great. St. John claimed that this analysis of their condition could not stand up to the light of the Gospel.
The message of Christianity is that, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” God, who has appeared to us in Jesus Christ is light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). That means that God is good, pure, true and holy. God is opposed to spiritual forces that are full of darkness, who are evil and false. If you claim to have fellowship with God but in reality have a lifestyle characterized by evil and impurity you are deceived. To have fellowship with God who is light you have to live in the light, confess your sins and find forgiveness and cleansing from the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. If you claim to be sinless and not to be in need of forgiveness you are self-deceived and living a lie. You also are calling God a liar and reject the mission of Jesus to atone for the sins of the whole world. The message of the whole Bible is that all human beings are sinners, have fallen short of God’s plan and purpose for their lives, and have been corrupted by sin. To deny this fact is to deny the truthfulness of God’s Word. Since God is light, what he says is true. He is truth. To claim sinlessness, is unrealistic. It is to set oneself over against God who reveals what is true and who comes to rescue us from our sinfulness. This is the Gospel: that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Why do people deny that they are sinners in need of a Savior? Why do they want to perpetuate the fiction that they are perfectly good people and don’t need help?
Many of our contemporaries feel that they are accountable only to themselves. They see themselves as “good people”. They are the center of their world, and their goal is to fulfill themselves. They have no obligation to God (if he exists), or to others. They relate to others only to further their own self-realization. In our therapeutic culture my suffering is never my fault, for I am the victim. Power comes from blaming others for my problems.
Whoever can claim the status of victim with greater authority wins, because that status projects an image of innocence over against which all others are somehow guilty. (L.G. Jones, Embodying Forgiveness, p. 46)
Crime is explained, not in terms of individual responsibility, but genetic or environmental causes. So sin is not my fault. Nobody can ever be said to be guilty, because nobody has a free choice to do anything. Ultimately I am the victim of my own genetic make-up.
It would seem that we move ever closer to a society free from personal guilt, free from the traditional language of sin…We seek not salvation — as defined in a religious manner — but liberation, as defined psychologically, ‘the feeling, the momentary illusion, of personal well-being, health, and psychic security.’ (Alan Mann, Atonement for a ‘Sinless’ Society, 29)
A friend asked me the other day why I thought that no one takes responsibility for anything anymore. It started in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13). We don’t want to admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We are deceived. The blame game is the story line of every conflict in marriage, in the family, in politics and in ethnic strife. It is walking in the darkness and not living by the truth.
How do we walk in the light? By confessing our sins and praying for each other. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). By being real with each other and honest about our own struggles and needs without fear of being condemned. By not judging others for their imperfections for we all have them. Jesus said that he who is without sin should cast the first stone (John 8:7). “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own” (Matthew 7:1-3, The Message).
The message of Jesus is “God is light”. We don’t have to hide. When we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us because Jesus has atoned for our sins and all who come to him in faith. “If we admit our sins — make a clean breast of them — he won’t let us down’ (1 John 1:9, The Message). Forgiveness and acceptance is at the heart of the ministry and message of Jesus. Let us embrace this light and walk in it.