I’ve grown very expectant of the ways in which I believe other people should act. So much so, in fact, that I have begun judging, and I mean judging a lot. I can’t seem to escape the snares of judgement, gossip, and being offended. Constantly, I am caught up in reminding myself how I’m actually supposed to treat people who fall short of my expectations – expectations that really shouldn’t be there in the first place. Luke 6:36 says this: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” How am I showing mercy when I’m up to my neck in gossip? How am I showing Christ when my thoughts are consumed with how I think other people are failing me? When’s the last time I remembered it’s not about me? What a revelation – it’s not about me. In fact, I can’t even begin to express how little about me this life is. It’s all about God, and that actually takes a lot of the pressure off. I’m not expected to take charge or play a role that requires a perfect performance – that’s God’s role, and all I have to do is accept His offer to perfectly handle what I absolutely can’t.
When Paul said, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” in Galatians 2:20, he meant we are dying to ourselves – our desires, our fears, our judgements, our uncertainties… We are dying to the sin that has been our inherent nature since the fall. So, if I’m really choosing to pick up my cross every day, I’m not judging people. I don’t think I’ve been excelling in the picking-up-of-my-cross area lately. It’s so much more comfortable to sit back and judge people through the lens of my perfect moral standards – because obviously they are flawless. I have a right to sit back and do that – don’t I?
Well, here’s the truth – I am called to imitate God, and when He was wrapped in flesh, carrying a cross, dying in the most excruciatingly painful way imaginable, He certainly wasn’t sitting back comfortably watching – He was willingly suffering for my shortcomings. “Slaves are not greater than their masters,” and if He was willing to die for shortcomings, if He was willing to forgive the adulteress, the tax collector, the liars, and those with the least desirable reputation, how am I called to live? “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) Imitate – that’s the key word. So, if we’re imitating Christ, we’re laying down our lives for people who don’t share our beliefs, who don’t care who we are, who don’t care about Christ, and who don’t understand why we love them. But it’s not just our love for those who don’t share the same soul-hope and soul-peace as us, but also the love we have for each other – “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35)
We often try to raise broken people to a perfect standard instead of encouraging broken people – calling out the good to reprimand the bad instead of snootily staring down our perfect, morally-upright noses, pointing out the bad and ignoring the good.
Expecting broken people to be perfect is unreasonable. Expecting broken people to act broken is reasonable, but just like God loves us too much to leave us where we are, we are called to kindly draw people toward a good God who puts the broken people back together. To imitate Christ looks like loving people, whether they reciprocate that love or not. James K.A. Smith said, “To be a restorer is to more than an observer or a critic. To be a restorer is to be a doer.” To be a Christian is to actually walk out the Gospel – to really do what Jesus calls us to do.
River House Church in Boise put it this way – “What does mission look like? It looks like participating in restoration by DOING the Gospel. We don’t change culture by criticizing or condemning it. We change it by CREATING culture that reflects the heartbeat of heaven! We must embrace the missional reality that we are called to be agents of cultural redemption in our homes, our workplaces, and our city!”
And this is the way we are called to live – in love. So, live loved and love well, and be especially careful to love the broken (which just so happens to be each of us).
“If you gave your life to love them so will I, like You would again a hundred billion times, but what measure could amount to Your desire? You’re the one who never leaves the one behind.”