I have seen a troubling occurrence among the Body of Christ. It is that we approve or disapprove of people’s journeys of faith, but use unbiblical standards. We consider that some Christians are growing in the faith in a healthy manner, while with others we are all but ready to disavow their salvation.
I submit that we artificially prop up some struggling Christians in an unhealthy way, while others are scolded and lectured ad nauseam.
2 Peter 3:18 tells us... “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”.
Christians are to grow in understanding and experiencing the grace (divine favor and assistance) of Jesus Christ. God’s grace is poured out upon every Christian to assist them in daily living. Grace is given to help us through temptation, and to comfort us when we fear.
Knowledge is accumulated through reading the Bible and experiencing God. Knowledge is something that is gained over time.
My main point is that growth takes time. While people grow, they still do things the wrong way. They are unfamiliar with God’s grace, and live in panic when stressors come. One young Christian may deal with a stressor by acting out in some culturally approved way, while another acts out in a culturally disapproved way.
Let me illustrate.
There is a televisions show called “The Biggest Loser”. Overweight people are challenged to exercise and lose weight. Imagine a 400 lb. man going on that show. He is obese, and in danger of shortening his life by many years. He has used food as a crutch, and has been an emotional eater for years. He uses food to deal with stressors.
If he loses 25-50 lbs., he is still obese, but people are excited for him. Maybe during that weight loss, he used food to cope, but overall, some progress has been made. We applaud his efforts and encourage him, as we should. We don’t focus on what he has yet to accomplish, but what he has accomplished.
By the way, using food and obesity is not considered to be a problem among some in the Body of Christ. We even joke about it, calling it fellowship….but make no mistake….some people use food as a coping mechanism.
Another person uses drugs as a coping mechanism. I have dealt with more than a few of such people. I am always excited when a person accepts Jesus and as a result, uses fewer drugs less often. Some would shake their head, and scold such a new Christian, perhaps even suggesting that they weren’t saved. They would be lectured about “hurting their temple”, etc., and any progress that they had made would be overlooked, because they were not yet completely clean and sober.
One man is still obese, but we applaud his progress, though he may still falter. The other man is still addicted, but we don’t recognize his progress. We only recognize that he still uses. We say of the obese man, “He is losing weight”. We call the other person an addict.
I am well aware that one behavior is lawful, while the other is a crime. I am also very aware that obesity probably won’t kill you as suddenly as a drug overdose would.
Those are valid points, but they are secondary. The main point is this: both people are making spiritual progress, and both should be applauded, acknowledged, and encouraged.
Though these people may continue to some degree in their sinful coping practices…
The one who gossips less and the one who self mutilates less should both be acknowledged.
The man who gets angry less, and the man who looks at less porn, should both be encouraged.
The young lady who flirts less and the young lady who binges are purges less, should both be applauded.
I understand that for each of us, some sins are extremely offensive.
I am not suggesting that all sins are the same.
What I am suggesting is this:
We are less critical of some sinful behavior, while other sinful behavior we rush to condemn.
I pray that we might have eyes to see any spiritual growth in a Christian’s life, though their sin may offend us. I pray that we would rejoice over any progress made as people struggle forward in faith. I pray that we would jettison our lists of acceptable and non-acceptable “behavior/problems, and see people’s spiritual efforts the way that Jesus does.
Finally, I pray that we/I would understand that growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ takes time. May we/I extend grace to those who need to grow in grace.
The main point isn’t that the obese man loses weight, or that the junkie gets clean. The main goal for such people is that they would trust Jesus in every situation, and not use coping mechanisms to artificially deal with life.