“I can’t believe she’s having sex with him. I mean, she attends church. I don’t get it,” my friend said, puzzled.
It’s not uncommon to hear of Christian couples engaging in pre-marital sex or cohabiting before tying the knot, or even Christian youth leaders who advise their youth group against dating non-Christians, but who have no qualms about being in a relationship with one themselves.
One of my former colleagues found it hard to understand how some people can call themselves Christians, yet harbor an unforgiving heart, anger, hatred, and a judgmental attitude. It can be very hard to wrap one’s head around the way Christians conduct themselves, especially when it’s clearly contrary to God’s Word.
On my part, I am tired of being asked out by Christian men who turn out to be far from the godly men I had hoped them to be. Many years ago, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid about dating a non-Christian. It wasn’t until I had a chat with my youth pastor—who encouraged me to look for someone whom I could grow spiritually with—that I thought it might be wiser to date a fellow believer.
Alas, some of the Christian men I met had me wanting to immediately renounce my faith.
One of the guys started harassing me with a bunch of text messages when I said I was not interested in a relationship. I remember turning my phone on at the end of a long night shift, to see a bunch of messages and missed phone calls from him, all wanting to know why I had been “ignoring him” and how he had thought I was “one of the nicest girls” he had met. The next day I received another message from him apologizing for the text messages he had sent while he was drunk the night before.
After that episode, I lamented to a friend about how not all churchgoers were Christ-like and said there were “some very seriously deranged people out there”. In contrast, a non-Christian who had asked me out around the same time had gently backed away when I said I was not ready for a relationship. You could imagine me ranting to God about how His own children were so much more badly behaved than those who weren’t Christians.
Of course, I have to first admit that I’m far from Miss 100% Perfect and Pure Christian myself. At times, I am like the Two-Face character in Batman. I have my Sunday face, which says the words I believe my church friends want me to hear. Within the church circle, I talk about trusting God and how awesome God is. On Mondays to Fridays, I switch faces to fit into the secular environment, where I would quietly whisper my faith to anyone who would hear, but would immediately make a disclaimer, “Well, I’m not a fanatic”, the minute people ask me about my faith.
I have bursts of road rage as I battle the traffic to work, I sigh and roll my eyes when I have to queue at the supermarket, and I can be a bit potty-mouth when I’m worked up. Oh, I have my vices just like anyone else, and sometimes, I’m sure no one can tell from my behavior that I am a Christian.
I am no better than others, and just like many other Christians, I struggle to reconcile God’s expectation with my performance. Just recently, I went on a lengthy tirade of not-so-printable words after I ran into an acquaintance whose demeanor and actions had me seeing red. Oh, it felt so good at that point, but after I finished telling people how awful the person was (yes, I was gossiping), I felt awful. I hurriedly told God I was sorry for my actions, and that I’d like to behave in a more appropriate fashion in the future.
I believe the reason the world has such high expectations of us—and we, of each other—is that we’re ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are also called a letter from Christ, “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God”, (2 Corinthians 3:3), so when people meet us and come to know of our faith, they expect us to conduct ourselves like Christ.
As Christians, we know that we’re meant to be a group of people who love at all times and who forgive those who have hurt us—but it’s a lot easier said than done.
We are fallen creatures, and while we strive to be good, we have our flesh to battle with. The apostle Paul said, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18-19)
So what are we to do with ourselves? On one hand, we’re trying to point an unbelieving world to a living God. On the other hand, we fail to be a good testimony when we struggle with our flesh.
Fortunately, we need not hang our heads in shame and spend our days riddled in guilt, because we are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1). The Bible says the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts His son (Hebrews 12:6). God is merciful, and He will take as long as it needs to mold us to be more like Him.
So, let’s be open to God’s direction and correction. The Christian walk isn’t an easy one. I struggle every day, but I have since accepted the fact that I am not perfect and that there will be times when I will slip up. I take heart in the knowledge that every day is a new day to put into practice the Biblical teachings I have learned, and that God still loves me even when I mess up.