Flying the Christian flag is not a magic pill – it takes work and humility

Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony – Colossians 3:12-17 

IMG_1295Today – and for the past few days – I’ve been mulling over a truth I’ve been wrestling with for much of my life. I’m not sure I like my conclusions at this point, but sometimes it helps me to “think out loud” and explore ideas in this on-line forum. So – with your kind indulgence – here goes:

Essentially, I’m struggling with the idea of innate human goodness. You see, I’ve always believed that, at the core of everything – people are essentially good. I know, there’s the doctrine of “original sin,” and the idea of “total depravity.” I get that, but those concepts are more technical issues, and bound up with the companion idea that Christ’s sacrifice on The Cross is absolutely necessary when it comes to salvation.

The “Nice-Mean” Continuum:

What I’m thinking about is more to do with what I’ll call, “the nice-mean continuum” – more along the lines of the Will Rogers declaration that, “I never met a man I didn’t like!”

“Everyone,” I have long reasoned, “is basically good; there’s no-one I wouldn’t like if only I sat down with them for coffee; all we have to do is get to know people and move forward from there.”

Along with that – something I’ve lived and practiced for six decades – is the companion idea that, “Being a Christian makes someone a good/nice/pleasant/generous-hearted person.”

So we have two ideas here:

  1. The essential goodness of humanity
  2. Christians are by definition nice people

No, seriously, don’t laugh – that’s what I’ve always thought. Even if I haven’t articulated it clearly, I have always operated on the assumption – right or wrong – that the fruit of the Spirit came, naturally, as part of the package: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other” (Galatians 5:22-25).

Flying the Christian Flag:

But you know what? I’m wrong! Simply flying the Christian flag does not make rude people civil, mean people nice, angry folk peaceable, crude folk polite, jealous people generous, unhappy folk joyful, selfish people unselfish, or arrogant folk humble.

I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary, and – somewhere over the past year – it’s reached the tipping point. I have to admit that adherence to the Christian religion isn’t the magic pill it’s often advertised to be, and wearing the “Christian” label – even 100% of our nation – would do little to change the way human beings interact from day to day….

But there is Good News!

But (and this is why I finished that paragraph with the ellipsis…) making the decision to be a disciple of Jesus, inviting the Holy Spirit to radically transform us, and waking up each and every day owning a disciplined intention to know Jesus makes every difference, and God will help us if only we are humble and willing.

What we must do – each and every morning like it’s the first time – is to get dressed for the day: “Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-17).

  • Clothed with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience
  • Making allowances for others’ faults
  • Forgiving anyone who offends
  • Dressing ourselves with love…

That’s how it works. God provides us with the resources, we have to – with humility – work hard and, every new day, get dressed in these clothes of grace – DEREK

4 thoughts on “Flying the Christian flag is not a magic pill – it takes work and humility

  1. Thanks for thinking out loud this morning. I must confess to the same bent of thinking everyone to be nice but then I hear the news reports of terrible things being done by some man or woman whose neighbors generally all say, “But he was such a nice guy!” or “They were a great family!” Makes me realize that “Niceness” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The stark reality is that God’s grace has a lot of work to do in each of us who come to Him seeking mercy and help to live a better and maybe a little bit nicer life! Be blessed be nice and keep thinking out loud Derek!

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  2. Yes. . . well. . . . .let’s start from the very beginning.
    Depravity is not a particularly Christian way of understanding mankind. We are created in God’s Image. It may be warped in us, but it is still His Image. We must deal with the result of our ancestor’s sin – death. We are not personally guilty of that sin, but it affects us. God took flesh to heal that wound in us.
    Paul was converted in a rather dramatic fashion; yet, he did not suddenly stop being an angry rageful person. In his early ministry he made enemies he did not need to make. God worked with him though his life and at the end he reconciled with those with whom he had emnity. Christian faith is a life of repentance. Some are healed all at once; most of us have a process of healing.
    Thank you for bringing the topic up.

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