I love my sister. She has been in town for the past week and we have had a great time visiting. She inspired this latest post.
We work so hard to “keep it together.” Look right, dress right, make enough money, have the right house, right car, right education, right career, right marriage, be the right parent, and on it goes. And because our lives are given to looking right, when someone challenges us with a point of growth, it can be tough.
It’s especially tough when we are in the habit of finding fault in others.
We all know those who are constant faultfinders. They spend their energy making sure the people around them know all the places where they can “grow” to be better. For some, this is even a faux-noble pursuit. They try to convince themselves that they are helping others.
The problem is, whatever place we speak from is the place we invite people toward. Let me give you some examples: If I am angry, I invite people to anger. If I am critical, I invite people to be critical. If I am negative, I invite people to be negative.
Conversely, if I am at peace, I invite people toward peace (“A kind word turns away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1). If I am encouraging, I invite people toward being encouraged and encouraging others. You see how this goes.
One of the dangers in the church world is that we often find ourselves in the position of a “truth-banner waver.” This isn’t all bad; we have the truth.
Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth. Your Word is truth.” John 17:17.
The word “sanctify” means “to be set apart” — to become holy. We become more holy as we line up more and more with God’s Word. And that is a good thing. We want to be holy. We want to represent our God accurately.
The problem is we don’t. Not every time, anyway.
So we have this gap which needs to be closed. The apostle Paul says it this way:
Romans 3:23–24 English Standard Version (ESV)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
No matter who we are and how holy we have become, we still struggle sometimes. Therefore, we must be careful how we represent the truth of God or we will miss the grace of God. And we all need that, too.
John 1:14 ESV
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus modeled both. Not at different times, but at the same time. It matters that we do the same, because what Paul says in Romans 3 is really true. Whatever standard we choose, we will fall short of that standard at some point. We don’t need to abandon truth, but we must pursue grace as well. The writer of Hebrews expands on this thought in Hebrews 10 (ESV):
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Notice that it does not say we need to stir one another up toward more and better truth. We are not abandoning truth, but what transforms us from the inside out is love and good deeds. That should shape how often we feel the need to correct everyone else and how often we are taking a good, hard look at ourselves.
Be careful, because in calling out everyone else’s problems, we may discover that it is our own fig leaf that has fallen. And we may not even know it happened.
May you inspire those around you to greater love and good deeds. May you always be aware of your own fig leaf. And when the time comes, may you gently and gracefully pick up the fig leaf of others and help them put it back into place.