Christians often get a bad name. People say we are hypocritical, complainers, and judgemental. And in some ways, these things can be true. As Christians, we tend to focus a lot more on what we are against and the many tragedies in this world and lose sight of the good around us.
This could partly be because of the way we see God. Relevant Magazine said, “In one of the most comprehensive research studies of Americans’ perception of God in the past 10 years, Baylor University professors concluded that we look at God in one of four ways: 1) “authoritative” (31 percent); 2) “benevolent” (25 percent); 3) “distant” (23 percent), and 4) “critical” (16 percent).”
Seeing our God as anything but grace-filled and loving contributes to our bitterness. We want a friend, but we see an authority. We want to belong, but we feel distant. We want grace, but we see a critic. Stewing inside these perspectives stirs up bitterness within. And instead of developing eyes to see God for who He really is, we are left disappointed and questioning, lashing out at the people around us who choose not to obey.
Why point to ourselves and work on our own hearts when there are so many people around us who seem to be worse than we will ever be? But “seem” is the key word here, for we have all fallen short of the glory of God, whether it be in big or little ways, it's irrelevant. We are all in need of God's grace, and without it, we are nothing.
Pastor Jake Barker of Traders Point Christian Church in Whitestown, Indiana recently spoke about our understanding of grace and related it to Peter's denial of Jesus. Denying Jesus was a huge screwup. The unbelievers around him who knew of this happening probably threw out their judgments that could have easily turned into bitterness toward Christians as a result. And the Christians looked on with judgment and most likely felt pretty good about themselves thinking, “Well, at least I didn't deny Jesus! I'm still a pretty good person compared to that.“
Removing bitterness and judgment starts with understanding our need for grace. Pastor Barker said, “The moment we convince ourselves that God didn’t save us from really all that much is the moment we have fully lost sight of what God has done for us. And so, today is the day when [we can] wake up and say, ‘God, I remember. I remember that not only did I need you back then, but I need you today because I’m still a mess, I’m still a work in progress, and I’m still a sinner saved by grace.”
I want to challenge you to stop looking at others as worse than yourself. Stop seeing the hate and tragedy in this world as evidence that there is no hope. And remember that God is a lot of things, but He is first and foremost the author and perfector of love and grace. He is a good God.
Begin to view the world through a lens of grace and watch your bitterness and judgment melt away. Will you join me?