Notes of an Imperfect Believer

Many a time the glaring flaws we note in others are far less than the flaws present in us. That is if we recognize them. Recognize that we too fall short. Short of many things. Short of the glory of God.
Imagine if God reacted like us to imperfection.

‘Imperfect’

The one tag we cannot shake off.

As months and years go by, imperfections of those we know or begin to know, begin to prick us. First subtly then glaringly. How does one deal with the imperfections that one sees in others? Often in not too kind a way. So, bad mouthing the person, being bitter towards them, shouting, fuming or blackmailing them seems normal.

But many a time the glaring flaws we note in others are far less than the flaws present in us. That is if we recognize them. Recognize that we too fall short. Short of many things. Short of the glory of God.

Imagine if God reacted like us to imperfection.

And therein lies the difference. The Perfect One did not leave us wallowing in our imperfections. He loved us despite our low estate, says Psalm 136:23. What a benchmark! Thus the response to imperfection in others might not be anger but love. That is a godly response. God so loved us while we were yet sinners. Perhaps, the gossip mongering, the lack of unity among us would stop if we realize imperfections should be overlooked and dealt with in love. The godly way of doing things. For, the ten things we list as faults in others there might be a ten more if we care to look within.

The Bible paints a brutally honest picture about the followers of Christ. It celebrates weakness as much as the strength of its characters. David is as guilty of adultery as he is a jubilant worshipper. Abraham the father of Faith lied about his wife. His son Isaac followed his steps. John the Baptist, the “greatest man to be born of a woman”, soon to face execution, has pangs of doubt of Christ being the real Messiah. The fact is that the Bible does not cover up imperfections. It puts them up for threadbare display. Why? Because God recognizes we are but dust.

Surprisingly, we seem to think and act otherwise.

Isn’t this why we strive to paint the followers of Christ as epitomes of perfection? Why our churches are custom made for “perfect people” and have no room for the “sinner”? Why we think twice before admitting our wrongs to a fellow believer? Why we feel choked Sunday after Sunday trying to keep up the role of the ‘perfect disciple’?

Perhaps we forget that while admitting our imperfections we also admit that God is perfect, and hence worthy of worship. Our imperfections and those of others then will lead us to worship and humility. It is in our imperfections that we admire his perfection, in his words and works, and bow our knees to Him. It is while battling with imperfections, that we seek strength from his perfected work on the cross.

As God perfects us each day, may we have grace to overlook the imperfections of others.

Discipleship – Jesus’ View

The early Church grew almost four-hundred fold during the first three decades after Pentecost, and continued to do so for three centuries thereafter. Then what led to the gradual decline?

Webster defines “Disciple” as one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another. “Mathetes” , is its Greek equivalent. In the 4th century B.C., the Greek philosopher Plato, introduced the viewpoint that separated the physical realm from the spiritual. In 335 B.C., Aristotle, his disciple who founded the school “Lyceum,” in Athens, took it a step further. Here, the academic world systematized the Platonic viewpoint and made it transferable. The school birthed doctors, lawyers and teachers, who passionately began to infiltrate their respective realms of influence with this Platonic worldview.

Years later, Rome conquered Greece. However, the Platonic logic continued to penetrate into the Roman culture, insomuch that, some historians did not shy away from using the term, Greco-Roman world. How influencing the power of discipleship!

It was in this context that Jesus enters into the scene and introduces a new teaching, unlike the existing Jewish or Aristotelian models, which only brought about fractions within segments of the socio-economic strata. Judaism was accessible only to the Jews, leaving everyone else (Gentiles) without hope and Aristotelean philosophy only to intellectuals. Jesus came, neither to promote philosophy nor religious fervor. He addressed something much deeper; one that came from the heart, based on “Love.” “For God so ‘loved’ the world…. (John 3:16).” As a result, bringing unity by breaking down barriers of separation (Ephesians 2:14).

Jesus invested three and half years into twelve men, a tax-collector, some fishermen, and others – to whom He commissioned prior to His ascension, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… (Matthew 28:19).” However, they were not ignorant on how to accomplish this task. Primarily, because Jesus had already modeled the process in them, which was a replication of the one between Him and the Father. “I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26).” Moreover, He had given them the new commandment to love one another, just as He had loved them (John 13:34). And it’s the love we have for one other which is the only tangible evidence to the world of being, His true disciples (John 13:35).

History is clear that the early Church grew almost four-hundred fold during the first three decades after Pentecost, and continued to do so remarkably well for three centuries thereafter (Coleman, Robert E., The Master Plan of Discipleship (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001), 30). The reason for this was that a major emphasis was placed on Discipleship. Early church fathers like Ignatius, Bishop at the church of Antioch in Syria, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna and Ireneaus, Bishop of Lyons, heavily emphasized discipleship (Wilkins, Michael J., Following the Master, A Biblical Theology of Discipleship (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992); Hull, Bill, The Complete Book of Discipleship (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006)). After this period began a gradual decline, which can be attributed to the lack of effective discipleship, and one doubts if the church is really focused on her obligation to raise up true disciples any longer!

Let’s face it! Somehow, the church has lost the understanding of “Discipleship.” The measurement of growth is quantitative, rather than qualitative. We are eager to lead people to salvation but not disciple them. Salvation in its truest form always leads to discipleship. And discipleship is the “way of life.”

Friends, the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). What marvelous love the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “His Children” – and that is not merely what we are referred to as, but indeed are (1 John 3:1). May the world know by our love that we are “disciples” of Jesus Christ.

Church Redefined

“God didn’t call us to go to church, He called us to be the Church.”
The enemy has been successful in distorting the true picture of the Church. Do we even understand how far we have been distracted from the truth?

If I ask the question, ‘why do we go to church?’, most Christians would reply, “to worship”.

#1 We worship the Lord through our lives when our life is the testimony of the Gospel (Romans 12:1).

#2 Why are we looking for a place to worship? Aren’t we are the place of worship?
Jesus said to the Samaritan woman that the time has come when we will not go to places of worship but will worship the Father in truth and spirit (John 4:21-24).

“God didn’t call us to go to church, He called us to be the Church”
~anonymous

The enemy has been successful in distorting the true picture of the Church. He has skewed our identity by making us believe that church is not us i.e. the body of Christ but a place of worship. Do we even understand how far we have been distracted from the truth?

We all are perhaps going to different places for fellowship but we are the parts of one body! Church is not a building or an organization but the body of Christ.

We are the Church!

We have deviated from the truth by bringing so many divisions within ourselves. The enemy has succeeded to divide us even on the pretext of theology. You think he cares even if we are right? He just cares about the division!

Within the body of Christ where is our charity? Why can’t we be graceful to one another? Why can’t we accept each other regardless of our disagreements? Our greatest fault is in assuming that our assessment is right! Right according to ‘our perception’!

Unfortunately we are all biased in our approach and worse, we don’t realize that we are biased. We somehow end up believing that anything that is different from our point of view is against it, and then it becomes more about ‘who’ is right than ‘what’ is right. Somehow the focus is to be right than searching for the truth.

“Shouldn’t we embrace being wrong, free of illusions, question everything even ourselves.” ~anonymous

Story of a confused Christian

He came. He lived. He died. He rose. He will come again. And what happened in between is no mystery to us. During Jesus’ ministry, he prayed that his future followers would exhibit a special kind of unity that would be a testimony to the world. So what happened?

He came. He lived. He died. He rose. He will come again.

And what happened in between is no mystery to us.

One-third of the world population now follows Christ, and hence called Christians.

During Jesus’ ministry, he prayed that his future followers would exhibit a special kind of unity that would be a testimony to the world. So what happened? 41,000 is the count of Christian denominations with some cultural over lapses, as per a recent survey.

Even when they appear to get along, they divide up into hundreds of different groups, churches, and denominations. For those who are not Christians, it seems confusing. Why are there sometimes four different churches on the same street? Even for believers like me, this question arises.

Born in a Malankara Orthodox Christian family, completing my schooling from a Convent School, having a good bunch of Christian friends belonging to various Sects and being a curious kid, I have had the time of my life exploring all kinds of Christian beliefs and faiths.

Understanding Christianity wasn’t easy for me, things were so contradictory. While most of my family and friends strongly believed in what was taught to them from the very start, I was a puzzled kid. I had to question the Wrongs and affirm the Rights.

While some churches believe in Infant baptism, some insisted on preparing Children for Holy Communion and Baptism.
Some called Mary honorably ‘Mother of God’ and hence believed in interceding to her while others differed and considered her just a vessel for carrying Christ and nothing more.
Some believed in giving up their ornaments and others ridiculed the idea of it.
Some were blamed to be praying like Pagans and others of being too loud and unstructured.
Some held intercessory prayers, fast and feasts for Saints while other upheld the idea that Jesus is the only mediator.
Some upheld that Cross is a sign of salvation and protection  while others thought of it as another form of idolatry.

These are just few of them. The differences and ridicules have no bounds, perhaps getting stronger with time.

I always stood puzzled as each one brought in their own biblical and logical references to prove their point. I felt some of their faiths were correct in their own terms while some were outrageous.

Once I was questioning one of my Priest of why things are like the way they are now. To a point he could handle my curiosity and then he ran out of words soon and asked me to perhaps meditate on things, read the bible and said God will talk to me.
I thought I wouldn’t be satisfied enough with his remedy.

But that was the day.

I didn’t hear God answering my questions but I found things that were more Christian than those things what I was always puzzled about. Bible was a treasure and being a Christian, a treat.
While conflict was all I saw around, I began to see the beauty of it. Despite these differences, there are a few central tenets that binds all Christians together, regardless of our particular church, denomination, culture, or geographical location.Some of the major focus points of being a Christian to me were:

 

  • Christ inspired us to love everyone with all our heart. He gave us the strength to forgive our enemies . “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?” (Matthew 5:43-47)
  • We can be so much more hopeful of our lives and know that what Christ does for is the best. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’’ (Matthew 6:34)
  • Serve as many as we can. We are his instruments in this world, be a good one. “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom.” (Mark 10:42-45)
  • He is there, listening to us, in all despairs and needs. A man on his knees will have everything he seeks. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)
  • He is our peace, Eternal peace. He calms our troubled hearts. “I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

While all these should be what One third of the world should be following, discussing and preaching about. Naah, But that’s not the case.

Most of our differences are just traditional and hence we follow the faiths and beliefs of the family we are born in. It’s a modern day scenario of Christian churches to be ridiculing each other to all extents possible.  Instead of being messengers of God, we act like freaks. Many of us look down on each other’s beliefs. But is that what Christ wanted when he came? While other beliefs and practices are important, and often the cause of disagreements, they are secondary.

God’s story is bigger than our differences, and if we continue to seek him according to the longing and desires that he has given us, we can all begin to find our places in his grand story. Let us all be Jesus freaks!