*If you think this is specifically about you, it probably isn't. I have been contemplating these things for years, writing a blog like this for months, and now have finally written it.*
This is a struggle I have had, and my wife has had. Authenticity. Being who you are.
I grew up in a wonderful, Christian family. As a kid, I saw how people respected my parents and the way they people would come into our household and enjoy the love, freedom, structure, and reliability of it. My parents were not legalistic. Rules were few, and I knew the focus was on God, not on my parents. Somehow, though, I really struggled with self-righteousness. Probably because that is the core of our sin problem..."I can do this myself." As some of you know, when I was about 13 I went through some radical changes, and my faith in Jesus Christ become personal, not just something I knew, or believed, but something that was all-encompassing.
So, over the next couple years I believe God led me to actually take what I believed seriously. If the Bible says "(blank)" than "(blank)" is true and my life needs to be brought into conformity with that reality. I quickly become someone who was searching out truth, and then, usually prematurely, wanting to share that truth with others. Most of us have been there. We learn something, and want to share it with everyone, before, perhaps, it has even taken root in our own lives. In high school I was annoying most of the time. Teenage insecurities and an often hap-hazard passion for God blended into a nice little Pharisee, most of the time. Being a vocal "leader" on spiritual things shored up insecurities with my peers. At least I was good for something. I hope and pray that God broke through on some of the things I said and did, and made some of it useful for something, but I'm sure a lot of it was in vain.
The goal was simple. Strive for the righteous requirement, take comfort and security from any "good" stuff I did, and make sure that I didn't get caught sinning. Yes, people like me struggle, but we admit to stuff like "not spending enough time with the Lord" or "not praying enough." Not stuff like lust, bitterness, jealousy, hatred, slander, and covetousness. Was I always like this? No. Did I ever go to others in honesty, and really pour out who I was, and how imperfect I was? Yes. In private. In big dramatic moments. But I had to cover, cover, cover my daily ongoing struggle with the flesh. Be nice. Say all the right things. Think those profanes words and thoughts, just don't say them. Don't act on them.
I don't have it figured out yet. I know this, Christ in me is the only hope of glory. I want to be a person of integrity. Not because my behavior is flawless. But because my beliefs, thoughts, and actions are all consistent with each other. No acts. No shows. We know from Jesus that our outward words and actions flow out of our hearts (Mt 15:18). The essence of being a Pharisee is stifling anything bad from coming out in public, while pointing out the righteous standard to others, and holding them accountable to keep it. All the while, the inside of the cup is filthy. I want Christ to be formed in me. I want His resurrected life to be what people see when they look at me. I want to be conformed to the image of His Son. And when conduct that looks like Jesus comes out of me, I want it to originate with His life, not my desire to produce my own righteousness that I can feel good about.
Something really ironic happened yesterday (4 days ago, now that I am posting this). I was contemplating writing this blog, and specifically about how good little Christians think swear words, but never say them. About 30 seconds later, as I was driving, two teenage girls started crossing E. 14th (for those of you not from here, that's a major 4 lane highway through town). They just started walking, and all of us got to slow down, or stop, so they could walk across the street. I believe the exact words I said were "frickin idiots!" Oh yes, the Christianized f word and "idiot," a word that Jesus said is bad enough to condemn me to eternal, unquenchable, hell fire (Mt. 5:22). I don't think I would have said that if anyone else was in the car. Maybe my wife, but then it would have been under my breath.
The point is this. I want my behavior to mirror my heart. Authenticity. If something good comes out, it is by the grace of God. If something bad comes out, it is evidence that there's a raging sinful flesh still inside of me. God still has work to do on me, and I don't want to act like He doesn't. Do I just let whatever fly that comes to mind? Of course not. There's something to be said for being wise, not to mention polite. But there's a big difference between being polite and being a Pharisee. Yes, I still have self-righteous tendencies, so even writing this is dangerous because there's some accountability that comes with it. Just thought I would share something that's been on my mind for a long time now.