In the Cusco group, in order to get to know one another better, several weeks back we started sharing our testimonies during our group time each week. It has really been awesome to see from where God has brought each one of us.
I was sharing my story, my testimony, the other day--not during group time but just with Emily. I'm not sure how much you know about my past, but God has brought me through a lot. God has guided my family through a lot.
So I was telling my story, and it suddenly hit me: that my story could equally be the story of any non-Christian family in all of the US. It didn't sound like a Christian story at all.
And I technically grew up in a Christian home. So that honestly started to ticked me off. Shouldn't there be a difference between a believing family and one who doesn't believe in Jesus Christ?
Shouldn't there be a significant difference in the divorce rates of Christians versus non-Christians?
Should nearly every church in the United States have a story of an affair between church members?
Shouldn't we be doing a better job of living in holiness?
Yes. Our God and Savior says, "Be holy, as I am holy." That means something. That is a call to really die to our sin. That doesn't mean we live hypocritically, pretending to have the perfect Christian life while hiding sin. Let's come out in the open and say, I am a sinner. But I am a sinner saved by grace, and I am trying to live a holy life in response.
You know I hate legalism. It drives me crazy. But grace doesn't mean that we can keep on sinning. It means we leave our sin behind because it is covered by the grace of God, and we press on living a life pleasing to God.
"What shall we say [to all this]? Are we to remain in sin in order that God's grace (favor and mercy) may multiply and overflow? Certainly not! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2)
Christians, this is a call to make ourselves clean and holy before God. This means getting rid of all the ugliness and sin in our lives. We can't clean up our acts without God's redeeming grace. But repentance means TURNING AWAY FROM SIN. We must also leave pride behind. Just because I am justified by God's grace and my sins are washed away does not mean I am better than people still caught in sin. As a matter of fact, grace means the opposite: that I did nothing to pull myself out of the muddy pit I found myself in. God did it, so how can I take pride in something I didn't do?
We need to rediscover the call of God on our lives to live in holiness. That is a fact. But I also realized the differentiating factor between the non-Christian story and the Christian story:
Yes, we still fail. We still mess up, and get caught in sin. I wish it weren't so, but it is. So the thing that makes our story different is forgiveness.
Without God's help, it is impossible to forgive the people who have caused the deepest wounds. Impossible. But because of the forgiveness that we have received from our God, even though we betrayed him like an adulterous wife, we are called to forgive others. You don't get that from the other side.
So, let's tell the Christian story differently. Let's tell the story of a people who are called to be holy and blameless in the site of our Lord. And let's practice the forgiveness that we have received. Then the story we tell will be different than the story the world tells. And that's how it should be.
One more thing: as Christians, we must also hold our brothers and sisters accountable when they are sinning. We must call them out in the love of Jesus Christ, and remind them of the call to holiness. We cannot just watch our brothers and sisters stumble. It is our JOB to hold them accountable; this is different than judging. We don't pass judgement on them, because that also is sin, but instead, we lift them up, and point them to higher living.
"And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all." (1 Thess. 5:14)