I adore the quote I’ve used from Brennan Manning, so I am going to use it again. Let’s refresh. Our buddy Brennan says, “…many of us pretend to believe we are sinners. Consequently, all we can do is pretend to believe we have been forgiven. As a result, our whole spiritual life is pseudo-repentance and pseudo-bliss.” I have been thinking about the pretending part of this quote. To be human is to be a sinner. Why would we only pretend to believe we are sinners when our actions perpetually confirm our humanness?
Nadia Bolz-Weber, in her book Pastrix, says Christians are desperately trying to be good instead of seeking truth. This feels true to me because “being good” is what Christianity seems to promote. Christian rhetoric has inadvertently made little actors instead of “little christs.” We pretend to be “the good Christian,” fostering delusions of self-generated salvation and nursing an abiding narcissism with which humanity already struggles. Like some strange mutated form of bubonic plague, it infects us and we find ourselves thinking,
– We have our lives more together than other Christians and non-Christians
– We know more about God
– We know the right way to deal with a situation
– Age/experience hinders others or gives us an edge
Guys, this is world-encouraged narcissism in a Polo, a pair of slacks, and sitting in a church pew, except we call it self-righteousness and it never applies to us… It is easier to accuse Peggy Pew Sitter of being a tyrannical Pharisee than it is to admit our own tyrannical Pharisee-ness. And maybe that’s because we care too much about sin. There is something wrong when sin is held above grace and love. There is something wrong when it becomes more important to point fingers and play “pretend I’m not a sinner.” We aren’t being honest. We are lying to ourselves, others, and denying the Gospel.
I saw a post on Twitter a week or two ago. @agapeguitars: “If you are living your life authentically, it will look imperfect. AND THAT’S OKAY.”
Do we understand what living authentically means? Hint: stop pretending to be good/not be a sinner. Sin is an unavoidable component of our characters. We justify self-righteousness because it perpetuates a sense of I’m-such-a-good-Christian-look-at-me-avoiding-sin-hooray, and it is comforting to feel like we have in some way earned our salvation. At some point we have to face reality: there is not a thing we can do to stop sinning. It’s just not going to happen, and when we are constantly striving to fight vices with our frail attempts to be good, we are merely pretending Christ’s death and resurrection mean something rather than claiming it means everything.
Throwing ourselves upon the power of Christ unsettles us; it reminds us how undeserving we are and how little our unworthiness seems to matter to God. For grace to become a living, transforming force in our lives, we must embrace our helpless, sinning selves and the truth of God’s love for us. And when we are unable to accept ourselves or unable to believe God is who He says He is, I think God just wants us to show up.
Pretending to be anything other than who we are doesn’t fool God. He knows us and is the One who called us, in all our imperfection, into being. The most perplexing thing to me is God made us knowing we would sin and God-in-flesh died for us in the midst of our sin. Why did He do that?
But such a love doesn’t make sense to me. Holding God’s omniscience and sacrifice in tension is hard, but there is great liberation in it as well, because it means our work is not calculating the weight of sin. Our work is not counteracting our sin with good works, or trying to appear good for our peers. God’s work is redemption. Restoration. Jesus bore the weight of sin on the cross. It is finished. His love knows no other expression than to spill itself without restraint upon the world. And when we allow such incomprehensible love to invade us, it transforms us and prompts us to love as He loves.