That Christians are supposed to be better people and are supposed to be getting better is about as ingrained in the public consciousness as anything. Nothing brings a “tsk-tsk” to the tongue more quickly than seeing that the person who JUST cut you off in traffic has a “Jesus Loves You” bumper sticker on his car.
As a Christian, I’ve pondered for years why it is that what people expect to be true seems to be so far from the truth in fact. We don’t seem to get better. Not much and not very fast, anyway. Christians struggle and fail, and then feel immeasurable grief and guilt, or they assume a cavalier attitude toward any standards of righteousness.
Author and radio broadcaster Steve Brown has thought about this a lot, too. He says in a variety of ways that he has decided that he just isn’t going to get any better. That takes off a lot of pressure.
But realizing there is the expectation for change, he says, “The only people who will get any better are those who know that even if they don’t get any better, God will love them anyway.”
The process of getting better begins with knowing that you don’t have to get any better in order to be loved. That is a profundity worth pondering. I don’t get better, but love remains. Wow.
This encourages Christians. But I think if we think about it, it can change the way we deal with those close to us.
As a father I want my children to behave in certain ways. Will they change to conform to my expectations? Not happily. But what if they know without question that even if they don’t get any better I’m going to love them anyway?
Any husband or wife will see areas where they want to see change and improvement in their spouse’s behavior. So, they scold, nag, manipulate, and generally fail.
There is much greater hope for betterment if she (or he) knows that even if she does not get any better, I am going to love her anyway.
The only ones who get better are those who know that getting better is not the ticket to love. That is profound.
Rev. Randy Greenwald, senior pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church, 4455 30th St. E., Bradenton, writes a blog at somberanddull.blogspot.com. For more information about the church, visit www.gohope.net. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.