All of us at some point have played “follow the leader,” perhaps on the playground as kids. For the most part it’s a fairly easy game … until the leader starts across some narrow balance beam, or climbs a rope, or scales over a high wall, etc. It’s a fun and satisfying game until we face challenges we can’t do! In some ways this reflects our exact feelings about discipleship or following Jesus …. it’s all fun and satisfying and even relatively easy until He starts across that beam where we have to keep a balance between what we want to say and what actually benefits the listener, or when we have to ascend to holiness when our desire is rather to indulge our sin nature, or when we must scale over the obstacle of forgiving someone who has offended us, etc. Following Jesus sounds like a great thing until we realize He’s going to take us into some very difficult places where we’re going to stumble and fall.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the world loves to see Christians stumble and fall. Not that non-Christians don’t fail at the same things, but the world looks for confirmation of its bias that all Christians are hypocrites. A typical response to that (even though we won’t necessarily verbalize it in this way) is to step up our game and show them that we’re actually really good Christians and NOT hypocrites like the others.
This past Monday at my annual visit to the doctor, I was speaking with a nurse about her church background. She admitted she isn’t really committed to a church, tends to bounce around from church to church when/if she does attend, and doesn’t really trust the church. Why? … because years back the church hurt her family because they didn’t do the “Christian” thing in a certain situation. It’s not only tough following Jesus, but it’s tough knowing that the world is constantly evaluating our performance which is full of stumbles, slip-ups, and downright failure. So should our goal be to never fall again? … to display what a perfect follower of Jesus looks like? … to prove that not all Christians are hypocrites? Do we get concerned that unless the world sees what a perfect follower of Jesus looks like they’ll never be convinced of the Gospel? Let me first be clear that as followers of Jesus we’re called to full and wholehearted obedience - we never have an excuse to sin. But also know that it’s God’s plan to use flawed and imperfect followers like us to introduce others to the perfect leader, Jesus Christ.
So yes, please address your sin, hate it, repent of it, turn from it, put on the righteousness of Christ, and pursue obedience. But make sure that in your efforts to do this you are not wanting others to see how good you are, but rather see how good Jesus is. We will fall off that beam, we’ll not be able to climb high enough, we’ll not be strong enough to get over certain obstacles, etc. but as we do all this repentantly and point to our Perfect Leader, God’s plan is still intact and He will continue to use flawed followers like us to draw people to Himself. Let’s press on in faith, not be afraid to fail, and watch how the Lord will use us!