“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Gandhi
So many people share the same sentiments as Mahatma. This is not only the cry of those that have never darkened the doorsteps of a church building, but sadly enough, this is the lament of those that have experienced by participation the religion called Christianity. Unfortunately, as a result, there are people that have completely given up on the gospel of salvation and God because of one bad encounter with an individual or a group of people that misrepresented the true nature of what a Christian is supposed to look like.
The saying is true, “hurting people, hurt people”. I will be the first to admit, I have been on both ends of the spectrum. You see, although I had made a conscious decision to walk away from the religious dogma that held me captive and develop a genuine relationship with God, the experience(s) of my past had left behind years of bitter memories and scars from which I had not completely healed. I had dedicated my life to God, I was praying, reading my bible and had reconnected myself to a local church. I thought I was walking the straight and narrow, by all intents and purposes, my life was now “clean”! Saved, sanctified, water baptized, spirit filled…No longer ashamed to lift up “unholy hands” for fear of scrutiny under the watchful eyes of those that knew my secret sins. I was now able to walk with my head held high, and that I did! For the first time in my life, I felt like a free independent woman, in control of her own life, not having to compromise her standards for anything or anyone! I felt accomplished!
Little that I knew, time and life would soon reveal that I wasn’t as “righteous” as I thought I was. You see, my hands were now clean BUT my heart…what was the condition of my heart? For a brief moment I went through the new born baby Christian stage; you know the one I mean! The “happy-go-lucky over zealous I want to save the whole world” stage. I was just so happy and relieved to be freed from so many years of mental and spiritual bondage that I basked in that phase for a good while! As time progressed, and the months turned into years I discovered that confessing my sins, dedicating my life to God and walking the “straight and narrow” did not in any way guarantee a smooth journey through life as a Christian and it certainly did not protect me from the battle that would soon rage from within.
I recognized that although I was now “saved”, my mind and my heart to a large degree, still mirrored the brokenness of my past. It did not manifest immediately though, once there was no opposition, all was well in my world but as soon as I felt like I was being mistreated or humiliated-those familiar spirits of rejection, inadequacy and insecurity would cause me to react in ways that were far less than “Christ-like”. And 95% of the time it was in cases where I honestly felt like the victim, not realizing that my reaction or need to defend myself actually made me the villain in the eyes of the culprit and those that were watching. I was slowly losing my witness and it would take more than a prayer of confession and some scriptures to break through the thick walls that had been built up around the perimeters of my deeply scarred heart.
I recall a teaching delivered a few years ago during a corporate consecration service at my church. The pastor was teaching on fasting and prayer and some of the things that can hinder our prayers from being answered. “One of those things is iniquity” he said, “these are the secret sins of the heart, the inner thoughts that contradict God’s nature and character”. He went on to list them “…pride, jealousy, covetousness, hatred, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness…to the natural eye you look like you have it all together, you walk around wearing your long dresses, your religious regalia, your religious bumper stickers, you can quote the scriptures from cover to cover, you take your big bibles to work and put it on your desk for all to see. You make it clear to the world “I am a Christian” but I wonder…what does God see when He looks at your heart?”
At the end of the pastor’s teaching he compelled those in the audience that felt like God was speaking to them through the message to kneel down from the place where they sat and confess every iniquity before God; allowing the Holy Spirit to wash our minds clean from those secret sins of the heart. I felt convicted that God was speaking to the spirits of resentment and unforgiveness in me that for so long had controlled a large part of my life. That night, I made a deliberate decision to release the people that had hurt me unknowingly and intentionally, from my past and my present. I recognized that carrying the load of someone else’ wrong doings on my shoulders was too great a burden and it was not worth the weight. I had to ask the Holy Spirit to give me the grace that I needed to release them from my heart. I had to release my mind from the negative labels that had been placed on me and embrace God’s thoughts toward me- that I was more than a conqueror, that I was the apple of God’s eye, that I was fearfully and wonderfully made in the image and likeness of royalty. I had to renounce every negative word that had ever been spoken over my life and declare the promises of God for me- that He had plans to give me a hope and a bright future.
I had to believe that if I never got an apology or there was no vindication God had me and that somehow every thing that had been meant for my bad, He was orchestrating events and circumstances to turn out for my good in the end. I had to believe that I would come out bigger and better because of it. I had to believe that God was on my side, I did not have to fight my own battles. I had to come to the realization that some battles were not worth fighting and that not fighting them did not make me weaker, but rather, it would inevitably make me wiser. I had to believe that in the fullness of time God would reward me for letting it go and taking the road less travelled. I had to LET IT GO, not just for me but for the few people that were depending on me to be ok, not just physically but mentally and emotionally.
Forgiveness did not come overnight, it was a process but walking out the process with that mindset made the journey a whole lot easier. And guess what? I have come to understand that the process of forgiveness is an ongoing one! Why? Because although I have forgiven those past sins of myself and others, I recognize that as long as I am breathing more offenses will come. And whether I am on the receiving end or the one dishing it out, the fact remains, we are all imperfect beings living in an imperfect world where we will be challenged one way or the other…it is simply apart of life. I have learnt that I cannot control another person’s actions but I can control how I choose to respond to it and that is all the control that I need.
Many of you, like me have encountered offenses of varying levels that have placed you in the category of victim, villain or both. Some of you are still struggling with issues of the past while others of you are currently facing those same mountains. Maybe, you have disqualified the notion of developing an authentic relationship with God because of what someone else did to you. Perhaps, you have a relationship with God but there are some grey areas that you have not completely surrendered to Him because you have become discouraged or distrusting.
May I submit to you, that we are ALL on a journey to becoming the very same characteristics that we strongly desire to see reflected in someone else that call themselves Christians. “How much of my life have I decided to yield completely to the will of God?”- the answer to that question is what draws the distinction between all of us. That is the one thing that makes the difference in our thought patterns, our intentions and ultimately our actions.
Living a Christ-like life for me now has so much more to do with the posture of my heart and mind. I am no longer concerned about keeping up external appearances for the sake of looking “holy” as much as I am concerned about actually pleasing God for real. I find that the more I submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit regarding my daily walk as a believer, the easier it becomes to live a life of complete freedom in Him. Everyday is not easy and I’m sorry to disappoint you but I don’t think that it ever will be, but knowing that my life is hidden in Christ is so much more reassuring than living without him or living in the grey area of uncertainty.
There is an indescribable peace that comes with knowing that no matter what others do or say, whether saved or unsaved, my relationship with God is independent of it all. Knowing that the only mediator between me and God is Jesus Christ puts my mind at ease. With that kind of relationship comes an incomprehensible level of confidence in knowing that I belong to a God that is sovereign, all knowing, omni present and can do the impossible in my life.
He made me so many promises and I am looking forward to seeing those promises fulfilled in my lifetime. Those same promises are available to you. In order to receive them, all that He requires from us is that we have not just clean hands but pure hearts…who could resist a deal like that? #Psalm 24
“All the water in the oceans cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside. Nor can all the trouble in the world harm us unless it gets within us”
― Goi Nasu