Two weeks ago, we visited our son and daughter in law. On Sunday, we attended church with their family as we usually do and their Pastor Roy Terry said something that stuck in my mind. He talked about the fact that Christians are "messy people". We have issues that often divide us or create
misunderstandings. His challenge to the congregation was that they would have to address some difficult issues in the future, but it was good to discuss them and keep lines of communication open.
So what is it that makes us "messy"?
As I thought about it, I recalled the passage that the Apostle Paul had written to describe his own struggles. He, too, was a messy Christian. Romans 7:19-20: "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." Then later in this chapter, he concludes in verses 24-25: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." What Paul is clearly pointing out to Christians is that we have a war going on inside of us. When we become a believer, sin no longer holds us in bondage, but we are tempted nevertheless. We know what God wants us to do and we love Him. However, we struggle against the old flesh of sin that calls us to walk in ways that do not honor the Lord. This is really what a messy Christian looks like.
Living in community with other believers is difficult at times because we are all at different levels of growth and sanctification. Sometimes we hurt one another or disappoint someone who was counting on us. Then, add to the mix those who say they are Christians but really do not have a relationship with the Lord at all. This is when we must remember that we are not perfect, but we are forgiven. Therefore, we need to learn to communicate, love, forgive and go the extra mile.
In some ways, I think our expectations about life and church fellowship can be too unrealistic. We believe that once we become a believer everything will even out, and our days will be filled with smooth sailing. Likewise, we think that church will provide unruffled fellowship, and we will all get along. Here is a reality check for that type of thinking. Jesus told His disciples (and this extends to all future believers) in John 15:19: "If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." Being a believer, then, sets us apart from the world and its way of thinking. We will not have "our best life now". We know that when we die, however, we will enter into eternity with our Lord where there will be no more crying, pain or suffering. For now, we live as strangers in this world.
Secondly, all we have to do is look at the churches mentioned in Revelations chapters 2-3. They had their problems. One had lost its first love of the Lord. Another had problems with false teaching. Then, we can look at the first letter written by Paul to the church at Corinth. There were some messy people in that congregation and as a result, there were many issues to deal with. Still, Paul did not give up on these believers. He brought correction and instruction to them.
Understanding that we cannot live and walk in the Christian life without the help of the Holy Spirit is the first step in the right direction. Then, we must accept the fact that we are not yet perfected and neither are our brothers and sisters in the faith. We are on a journey together towards the final destination of God's Kingdom. Therefore, we need to take the Apostle Paul's advice which he gives in his letter to the Colossians 3:12-15: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." This is how we can live together in harmony and bring glory to the Lord. Selah!