The Imperfect Christian

I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.

— C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock)

We can learn a great deal about Christian practice from St. Peter. He is not portrayed as the perfect human being, but as someone who sometimes gets it wrong. Peter loves the Lord and is a devoted follower, but struggles with wanting that devotion to be demonstrated on his terms. “Look how committed I am,” his actions try to say. But often Jesus shakes his head and admonishes Peter. Consider the account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Peter says, “No,” certain he is correct in refusing. The master should not wash the feet of his servants. His overconfidence makes Peter miss Jesus’s lesson in humility.

After Jesus rebukes him, Peter then overcompensates. If Jesus is to wash his feet, then Peter wants his hands and head washed as well. Again, in his haste and zeal Peter missed the point. Then later, Peter draws the sword to prevent Jesus from being arrested … but this is not the kind of courage Jesus seeking from Peter. Rather, he is looking for the kind of courage Peter later fails to exhibit when he three times denies knowing Jesus. Peter fails to listen, so his acts of devotion crash and burn.

It takes time for Peter to fully understand his calling. It can take us time as well. The Lord does not call us to live on our own terms, but on His. It can be uncomfortable to relinquish our ideas about who we are and how we want to prove our Christian devotion. If we do not learn to do so, however, we are not truly followers of Jesus Christ, but followers of our own selfish desires.

Fortunately, or not, depending on your position, the truth of Christianity is harder to contend with than the world around us. It shows us aspects of ourselves that no one wants to admit—after all, a real relationship with Christ begins with a knowledge of our own sin and with the admission that “we’re not okay,” which is precisely the opposite of the message broadcast by the modern world. Christianity is not simply an easy expedient adopted by the weak to protect themselves from harsh naturalism. It is the acceptance of the even harder path that leads the weak to become strong through Him.

Christianity isn’t a warm, fuzzy blanket that we wrap ourselves in when we feel the cold of the world, and it is far more than a get-out-of-Hell-free card. It is the Universal Sovereign’s attempt to set us back to right after we have so thoroughly injured ourselves and His creation that He would be justified in simply doing away with it all. The Truth restores us to proper balance with Himself and with His creation as a whole. That affects our entire life in different ways, some comforting, some hard … but all good.

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. And my people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

— Isaiah 32:17-18

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