Christians are often criticized when they sin, as if we are somehow supposed to be perfect. Perhaps that is due to the legalistic nature of some Christian denominations that spend all their time focusing on hellfire and brimstone, or because we can sometimes be a bit judgmental ourselves. Jesus said, ” Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1. I guess He was right. When we criticize the imperfection of others they will expect perfection from us.
But Christians aren’t perfect, at least I know I’m not. Lately I’ve been struggling with my tendency to be easily irritated by others. Perhaps it was two weeks in New York, and missing three Sundays of fellowship with my church family as well as two weeks of reading my Bible and my favorite Christian blogs. I’m feeling irritable and critical, and am having a hard time shaking that feeling.
So I have turned to God in prayer, asking Him to forgive me and to help me be less irritable and unforgiving of others. He has reminded me of a few things to help in that regard. First, when hanging on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34. If Jesus could ask God to forgive those who crucified Him, should I not be able to forgive those who merely irritate me? Second, I thought of the teaching of Paul, who said, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13.
Finally, God reminded me that He loves even the imperfect among us. So even though I am not perfect, He loves me still. And perhaps it is my recognition that I am not perfect and my confession of my own sin that makes Him love me all the more.
Consider King David, who was called a man after God’s own heart. Acts 13:22. David was far from perfect. He essentially murdered Uriah by sending him to the front lines of a battle so that David could take Uriah’s wife Bathsheba for his own. 2 Samuel 12:9. The Lord send the prophet Nathan to rebuke David, and in response David replied, “I have sinned against the LORD.” 2 Samuel 12:13. Because David was repentant, the Lord spared his life and David was yet considered beloved by God.
Consider also Peter, the disciple of Jesus. In the night in which Jesus was tried and crucified, Peter denied him three times that he even knew Jesus. John 18:15-17, 25-27. Peter, who had declared he would die with Jesus, now denied any relationship between them. Peter was despondent over having done just as Jesus had predicted he would do. But even so, Jesus loved Peter. After His resurrection, Jesus restored their relationship and charged Peter to feed and care for His flock of followers and believers. John 21:15-19.
There are many other examples in scripture of those who loved God, and whom God loved in return, but who were not perfect. The entire nation of Israel is a perfect example. Though they turned from God time and time again, God kept calling them back because He loved them. In the same way, though we may stray time and time again, God, through His Son Jesus, calls us back to Him because He loves us even if we are not perfect. As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.