Monday, September 24, 2012

Broken Pedestals

I was in store some time back when I happened to get in line several people behind a person that many in the local Christian community would recognize.  This individual started and heads a local ministry that has helped countless people and the ministry cross-networks with other ministries to truly perform the work of Christ in our area.  Though I do not personally know this individual, I've seen them at many of the charitable and Christian functions that I've attended, heard their ministry's work on the local Christian radio station, and even contributed to funding their ministry myself.  In fact, I would go so far to say that for many, this person's accomplishments in the name of Jesus and in love are something to not only be admired but are also inspirational.  After all, this person has laid their lives down for others and others' lives have been changed as a result.  People have come to know the love of God through this person's obedience in loving our neighbor as ourselves and taking up our cross. In a sense, this individual was a local "Christian Celebrity", whether they wanted to be or not. 

But here was the problem for me;  today this person was yelling at their kids.  And I'm not talking about the "NO-you-can't-have-that-now-put-it-back" kind of yelling.  This person's face was visibly twisted as eyes filled with anger bored into their children.  They hissed "I SAID STOP IT!" and their children shrank back, shoulders slumping in compliance as their crushed spirits withdrew.

Again, I was some distance away in our line so I know others heard this.  I continued to monitor the scene as inconspicuously as I could and this individual proceeded forward, paid for their goods, and marched out of the store, smoldering in the flame of anger with kids following in silence.  I was shocked.  This person was a community leader, a CHRISTIAN community leader.  This person headed a respected ministry.  Why would they display such open hostility towards their own family members?  Questions immediately began to flood my mind.  Perhaps they were having marital problems, perhaps the home life was bad, perhaps the kids were unknowingly rebellious.  Maybe the ministry was struggling and the stresses were too much.  Maybe they weren't balancing the home/ministry/personal-walk-with-God ratios well.  Even so, what would drive one to publicly snap in such an ugly manner towards their own children?  Suddenly the thought was interjected - "Maybe their ministry isn't such a good ministry."

Here's one:  Maybe this person, like me, is simply human.

How many of us have positioned others in a certain light of expectation in our minds?  Perhaps we wouldn't go so far as to call it "hero-worship" but all of us have individuals in our lives that we expect to walk a higher road; people we've positioned on pedestals of higher moral ground.  I don't think I would be alone to state that though I often wrestle with my own failures and stumblings, there are those I hold in a high regard - in part - because I don't necessarily perceive those individuals as struggling with my particular frailties or perhaps they "seem" to have this Christian journey figured out better than I do. 

How many of us, however, are quick to lose respect or quickly tempted to judge when that individual falls?  It could be as simple as yelling at the kids to marital infidelity.  Do we find ourselves trying to understand what that individual is struggling with or do we feel hurt and disappointed that these people somehow let us down by not succeeding every second of every day in their own Christian walk?  Do we get comfortable in our own failures holding others to a higher standard in our minds because "that's just who they are"? 

I'll admit - I've found myself doing this.  I've found myself comparing my life, my mis-steps, my sin to others and at times justifying my actions with the philosophy that because I'm not as holy, committed, or faithful as that individual, because I'm not as "far in my spiritual walk" as they, that I am somehow justified in my failure - though still in need of repentance.  If that person falls, however, how many of us have our cover blown - our excuses removed?  When will we stop living our lives comparing against each other and fully live them for Him - the only one who weighs the soul? 

This past week I was challenged by my favorite radio broadcaster with this:  What if we truly thought of others how we want them to think of us - all of the time?  I am quick to excuse myself with the thoughts of "You don't know what I'm dealing with today" or "I didn't mean to say it that way" and I often hope to find an understanding ear.  I always desire that others would know that I have the best of intentions and that, though the wrong action may have resulted or the wrong words may have come out, I tried my best.  How often am I willing to extend this grace to others?  How often do you? 

What if we all always assumed the best of intentions of everyone? Sure, I'm painting the sky with rainbows and lollipops are now growing in forests with marshmallows falling from the sky, but don't miss the question.  What if we truly did love others as Christ has loved us, as He continues to love us?  Wouldn't that include grace for wrongs both intentional and unintended?  Would "turning the other cheek" suddenly be so foreign?  Would forgiveness?

God's grace towards us is literally "overcast" - as in cast far past our ability to violate it.  The image of this "overcast grace" is of a bed sheet being spread over a bed.  His grace, His love - they are infinite and they cover it all.  I am so very thankful for this in my own life - but this knowledge should challenge me to walk this out towards others as well in the areas of expectations, failures, and even forgiveness.  Certainly the enemy of our souls would desire us to look at the man rather than the God who holds up the man.  This angel of light would always draw our attention to the failures or successes of others in justifying or condemning ourselves - causing us to ignore the immutable truth that

"...there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death."
Romans 8:1-2

If Christ is not condemning, then why am I?  In entertaining the fleeting thoughts of failed ministry and personal imperfection of another, I had before me a path of thinking that would lead to condemnation, a lack of grace, and even division in the body and this is perfectly within the enemy's plans for keeping all of us from truly uniting as the loving Body of Christ - each and every imperfect one of us.  Some people are quick to anger, some people talk too much, some people don't talk at all, some smell bad, some are "take-charge" leaders and some are introverts.  Some wear slacks and dresses and some wear ripped out jeans and t-shirts.  Some occasionally swear and some are quick to judge those who do. 

Every one of us is human and imperfectly walking out this salvation that God has called us to.  From the stay-at-home mother, to the "Christian-celebrity" to your pastor;  we are all human beings who get tripped up with sin and depend daily upon the "overcast grace" of His infinite love - a love we are to imitate towards each other.  As for me; I will be less critical of the individual who falls, who disappoints my foolish expectations of near-perfection, who tumbles from a broken pedestal that I placed them on in the first place.

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