I Timothy 1:16, “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first JesusChrist might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”
I was thinking about all of us needing to grow and change, as we learn to accept constructive criticism in Christ. I also thought about the antithesis of a person who knows he or she has to grow and change. That person would be a stubborn person. And I wonder whether there is any trait worse than stubbornness for making a person look unattractive as a representative of Christ.
Just imagine, we represent a grace-based faith in which the Creator of the Universe cared enough about His fallen creation that He entered history as one of us, as the God-man, and bought us back from the dark side by dying a death of torture for us, then rising from the grave three days later. This faith is about love. This faith is about grace. This faith is about second chances. So when we are presenting this wonderful grace-filled faith to people, what if we come across as stubborn and arrogant about ourselves, as though we already know everything there is to know and as though we already do everything 100% correctly all of the time!!??
To be sure, we are to present Christ that way. He is God so He does know everything and He indeed never sinned while He was on earth and He never will. But, even in Him, we are quite a different story.
I once asked a friend about a phrase in something he wrote that I thought was a misprint. He told me it was not. That was okay–I could accept that I might have been wrong in my observations or that we might differ in our definitions of what he had been trying to say. It was what happened next that was telling. This man who makes it his highest priority to witness to others spent the next ten minutes defending his use of that phrase. Every time I thought he was done, he would come back with another reason that the phrase was correct. And I wasn’t arguing! He was in a defensive mode and got caught there.
I left the encounter thinking “How unattractive. I hope he doesn’t deal with the lost the same way he just dealt with me.” You see, his observations were not about how gracious and loving the Lord Jesus is, they were about making sure I understood he was right. And the more he went on, the less I was sure he was right. I was just sure of one thing–he seemed very stubborn at that moment.
We can all be like that if we are not careful. Some of us may have had perfectionistic parents or teachers as a child. We may have quickly learned that if we gave way on anything, we would be shredded emotionally by that other person. We learned to stand our ground for the sake of self-preservation. But the tool we learned then makes us very unattractive as adults, when trying to present Christ to people in all His love and glory. He wasn’t stubborn. And, if anyone had the right to be, He did.
My prayer is to be teachable, to be tender, to reflect the graciousness of our Lord Jesus. I fail so many, many times. I can be so sarcastic, then realize that I just won the battle and lost the war as a Christian witness. May God help us all to look in the mirror and see what unsaved people see when they look at us.
As the old hymn says, we are only sinners, saved by grace. Or as I have heard someone say, “Witnessing is like one starving man telling another where to find bread . . .”