Cheer for ones who screw it up because you’re not perfect either

I actually sat down and watched a basketball game on television on purpose last night. In the last three years, this has happened on more than one occasion, mostly because my college, Wichita State University, has a pretty awesome basketball team.

Both teams did a fantastic job, and while I was definitely rooting for the Shockers, I was impressed by the Jayhawks too. The game was great, but something happened that really broke my heart.

It was in the final minute of the game. WSU was going to win. It was unavoidable by that point, but the Jayhawks were still trying to get a basket. And someone on the court (I don’t know who) got in a last-second three-pointer. It was a beautiful shot!

And nobody cheered.

Maybe a few did. But the vast majority of the KU fan base that was in the crowd didn’t cheer at all. Or if they did, I didn’t hear it.

Seriously? One of guys on their team scored a three-pointer at the last second and nobody cheered? Sure, it didn’t win the game. Sure it wasn’t going to help them win the game. But it was still a really impressive shot. Don’t they deserve recognition and encouragement for that?

Maybe it didn’t bother anyone else. But it bothered me. Because I see the same thing happen in our own lives over and over again.

NCAA2015_vanvleet_greeneToday’s verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

It’s easy to give up on people, isn’t it? It’s so easy to just write people off, because the less you get your hopes up, the less you risk being hurt. And while there is wisdom in distancing yourself from truly foolish people who never learn, God never calls us to give up on anyone.

Just because you think you have it all together doesn’t give you the right to point out the failures in someone else’s life. But for the grace of God, you might be in the same place.

Following Jesus is a process. Yes, when you make the choice to follow Him, your sins are forgiven fully and immediately. That happens all at once. But learning to live for Him? Learning to turn away from your old life and cling to the new one? That takes time. And, unfortunately, it takes falling down frequently.

Maybe you know someone who has screwed up their life. Maybe you know a Christian who has screwed up their life. That doesn’t make them not a Christian anymore. Even the Prodigal Son got screwed up in Luke 15 because He had his eyes on something His Father hadn’t intended for him, but that didn’t mean he was no longer a son. He started in the Father’s family, and when he came to his senses, the Father was waiting for him.

Christians are going to screw up. We’re going to fall flat on our faces because we’re human and we’re not perfect. When that happens, it’s our responsibility to repent. We need to change our thinking and recognize that what we’ve done is wrong and not what God wants for us. That’s part of being a Christian. But the last thing a Christian who’s stumbled needs is another Christian refusing to support them because they’ve messed up.

No, don’t deny the sin. Call it what it is. And don’t make excuses for their choices. They had a choice, and they made it. But if they’ve turned away from it, if they’ve changed their mind about that behavior, don’t keep rubbing it in their face. God has forgiven them. Why can’t you?

Instead, encourage them. Remind them how much God loves them. Remind them what it means to cling to God’s grace. Tell them what God has done in your own life, and love them unconditionally–the same way Jesus loves you. And when they make a choice that will bring glory and praise to God, cheer them on.

No, one good choice can’t make up for all the bad stuff they’ve done in the past. But the same is true for you, Christ-follower. Maybe they lost the battle, but that doesn’t mean they should give up. Just like you shouldn’t give up on them.

Do you know someone who’s struggling? Do you know a Christian who has completely screwed up his or her life? Are they doing all they can to follow God? Cheer them on.

They might have lost a battle, but the war isn’t theirs to win anyway. And it’s not yours either.

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Pink flowers

Being patient with other Christians

Do you ever get frustrated with other Christians? I do. There are so many Christians out there who profess Christ but don’t follow Him. There are so many Christians who’ve been in church for years who have no concept of what true service is. There are so many Christians who know the Bible but haven’t figured out how to apply it to their life.

And I get frustrated with them. So today’s verse is really, truly aimed directly at me.

Pink flowers

Pink Flowers at Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Ephesians 4:2

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Ouch. Do you ever read verses that step on your toes? This is one for me because I really struggle with this. I’m usually quick to point out the faults of other Christians, and I’m not always gentle about it. And I know I’m not patient either. I don’t know if it’s because I keep thinking that if they would make the obvious choice and do what the Bible says, their struggles will be over or what. But it’s very easy for me to criticize and it’s very easy for me to be impatient.

I have high expectations for God’s people. Not because they’re superheros but because they have access to God, because through Him they can do everything, and because they don’t have to settle for ordinary. People talk about the mission’s trips and the experiences I have gone through as though they can’t do anything similar. Well, yes, they can. There’s nothing I have done that someone else can’t do–and do a better job at! But other Christians convince themselves that great things are done by great people, and that’s not true. Great things are done by God, and if we ask, He’ll let us tag along.

And I lose my patience easily with those sorts of comments (and with those sorts of Christians) because they insist on putting God in a box. But this verse says that’s now how a Christian is supposed to act.

Even if a Christian gets off track, although it is my job to try to set them straight, I need to do it gently and humbly. And even if another Christian isn’t off track and they’re just driving me crazy, I need to be patient with them. Why?

Well, beyond the obvious answer of “the Bible says so,” God has also been patient with me. I’m not perfect. Far from it. And when I make mistakes, God is always there waiting to pick me up and set me back on my feet again. And if God can be that patient with me, why can’t I be that patient with my brothers and my sisters in Christ?

I need to be patient with other believers because I love them. Love is what sets us apart, makes us stand out in the crowd of inscrutable religions. And traditional Christians aren’t very good at it, let’s just be honest.  The Christians I’ve met who grasp this concept are radical, revolutionary thinkers who break every mold they come across.

I truly believe that many people won’t have chosen not to follow Christ have done so because of their experience with Christians. Let’s be real here. The Jesus many Christians paint of picture of with their lives isn’t very flattering. He either has no moral standards at all or He hates everyone. And if that’s the Jesus we are trying to introduce people to, it’s no wonder that the world doesn’t want anything to do with Him. And what sort of family are we asking people to come into? A family that has impossible expectations? A family that demands you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps while they throw rocks at you? A family that demands perfection from you every moment of every day and doesn’t allow for any faults or weaknesses?

Is that truly an alluring concept? Is that really the kind of family we want to belong in?

I’m not saying look away from sin. Sin needs to be addressed when it appears, and it needs to be addressed with gentleness and humility because without God’s grace you could end up in the same situation.

But I’m not talking about sin. I’m talking about everyday relationships. When a Christian you’re around slips up and isn’t acting very Christiany, what do you do? Do you yell at them? Do you call them a fake? Do you puff yourself up and tell them what’s wrong in their lives?

Yeah, none of those options sound gentle or humble.

When that happens, apply this verse. Be patient because you love them. If you feel you need to mention it, be gentle and humble about it. And after the conversation is done, don’t hold it over their heads. Let it go. Forgive them for not being perfect because you’re in the same boat.

Be kind because you can’t rewind

At Libraries and video rental stores, all the VHS cassette tapes had stickers on them that said “Be kind. Rewind!” so that people would remember to rewind the tape to the beginning of the reel so the next person to check it out wouldn’t have to. I sure hope I remembered to do that, but I’m sure there must have been some times when I forgot. Wouldn’t that be nice if it worked that way in real life? If you were unkind to someone, you could rewind the day and do it over again right? Unfortunately, that’s not in our power to do.

We live in an unkind world. If you don’t believe me, try driving somehwere and see how everyone reacts to each other. We scramble for position at work, uncaring who gets run over in the process. We bowl people over in the supermarket or the toy stores trying to buy exactly what we want exactly when we want it. If someone makes an honest mistake, like over charging us at a restaurant or whatever, we get impatient and unhappy and we don’t rest until that person understands just how badly they’ve wronged us and how much it either hurt our feelings or inconvenienced us.

Ephesians 4:32 says:

32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

The plain and simple truth, folks, is that we screw up. We make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. So we need to make allowances for that. We need to understand that just like we make mistakes, other people make mistakes too. And being mean to someone about it doesn’t do any good. It makes you a bully and it hurts the other person.

Well, what about the opposite side of that? What if you’re the nice person and someone has been mean to you?

It happens. It happens a lot. Any kindness you show to anyone else in this world usually backfires on you, and if that person doesn’t chew you out anyway, they figure out that they can use you. I can tell you that I have been used and manipulated more times than I care to admit, mainly because I always try to be kind to people. But if you are kind to people, whether they are followers or Christ or not sadly enough, you take the chance that people will take advantage of you. And when that happens, we are supposed to be kind to each other, forgiving each other just like Jesus forgave us. That begs the question, how did He forgive us?

The best term that comes to mind is unconditionally. There are no limitations on His forgiveness, and once you ask for it He never takes it away or brings it up again. We can take a lesson from that kind of forgiveness. If you say you forgive someone, honestly forgive them and don’t keep reminding them of how they wronged you. He also unconditionally forgave us no matter what we have done. It doesn’t matter how dark or depraved our sins are, His blood is strong enough to cover all of it.

So when you get right down to it, we need to forgive each other in spite of what people have done to us, in spite of what they might do to us in the future, and once we forgive them, we need to remember not to remind people of the past.

It’s not our job to be someone else’s Holy Spirit. Granted, we can lovingly call someone on their sin, but it’s not our job to make someone else feel guilty for the way they’ve treated us. It’s our job to forgive them and keep loving them. And to me, that takes the stress and pressure off me because convincing someone else that they’re wrong is a painstaking, laborious process that I’m ill-equipped for. It’s so much easier to just leave it up to God because I have my hands full trying to control my own actions!

Be kind to each other. And when someone isn’t kind back to you, forgive them and keep being kind until God thwacks them on the head and makes them understand that what they’re doing is wrong.