Lately, I keep hearing the term “true Christian” used by both Christians and non-Christians alike. People from both sides apparently have an idea of what they think a Christian should be and whether or not that person is meeting up to those expectations.
As Christians, we sometimes (maybe oftentimes) shoulder a huge responsibility according to those who use this term. Many times when we fall short of what someone believes a Christian should be or how a Christian should act, then we are labeled as not being “true” Christians. There is little or no latitude here and no room for error. We must hit the nail on the head every time or we are not “true”.
If a carpenter doesn’t hit the nail on the head just right, he bends the nail and must replace it. If his employer demands of him a track record of 100% (no wasted nails), then he might lose his job, but that wouldn’t mean he wasn’t a carpenter. It would however say quite a lot about his employer, though. Only one carpenter was perfect, and that carpenter knew that everyone was going to bend a lot of nails.
In Matthew 5:48 that carpenter tells us “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Wow! Even Christ tells us we need to be perfect! What a difficult thing to be a “true” Christian, right? Was Jesus really expecting us to be perfect?
Jesus knew that none of us would ever be perfect on our own. God created us in His image, but not as His equal. Jesus knew we would all fall short of this because we are humans, we are imperfect, we do make mistakes (daily, even) and that we are “bent” toward our own selfish desires and not toward Him. Yet, with this knowledge He still calls us to perfection. He still wants us to be “perfect” Christians, so much so that He was willing to die on the cross for our imperfection. Even in that perfect act of selflessness, Jesus asked the Father to forgive us because we “knew not what we do”. We are forgiven even in spite of the ignorance of our own sin. That is what a “perfect” Christian does, and Jesus was the only perfect Christian… He was the only Christ. We are only able to be “perfect” Christians when we accept that this perfection can only come through the acceptance of Him as our God and Savior and not by our own merit. This is the “perfect” that Jesus calls us to.
So, in my opinion, that’s what being a “true” Christian really is – one who follows Christ, stumbling now and then but still intent on following Him.
For myself, today I will strive to be a perfect carpenter, but I have no doubt that I will bend some nails before the day is done. When I do, I will look to my master and thank Him for not firing me when I fall short. I will cast aside the bent nail and reach for a new one and try again. I will also thank Him for giving me job security, knowing that I will be on the job for Him for an eternity even when I do bend a few nails now and then.
Let’s not demand perfection from others today. Instead, maybe when we see their imperfection, we will remember that we too are imperfect and in need of grace and mercy as well.