Christian community involves honesty, vulnerability, maturity, accountability, and most importantly, Jesus. When Jesus is at the center, we're able to be in communion with people who aren't exactly like us. We may look different, have opposing thoughts on certain topics, and may have hurt each other in some way, but we're called to love and forgive one another.
That brings me to another topic, which is the idea that Christians are perfect and that we never make mistakes. Or that we never feel emotions of anger, jealousy, or inflict emotional pain on others. Truthfully, I used to think this way. I used to hold high, unrealistic expectations of believers. If someone was rude, bitter, or unkind or they didn't fit the stereotypical Christian mold, I questioned whether or not they're truly a believer. That is terribly wrong. I'm learning to unlearn the age-old definition/stereotype of who a Christian is, what they look like, and how they act.
I've come to the conclusion that when something is coming in between us and Christ, or we're struggling with a heart issue, or we haven't allowed God to heal past wounds, we can easily act and speak in unloving ways. When we aren't watering and exposing light to our soul, we have nothing to give to those around us. When we feel the love of Christ and remember the gift of grace and forgiveness, we're able to extend that love and grace to others.
There are multiple situations―big and small―that could be preventing a believer from loving and/or forgiving their family, friend, co-worker, or stranger. They could be experiencing a new and scary life change, insecurity, the death of a family member, a loss of a friendship, etc. The list goes on. Now that I'm aware of this, I'm able to pray for someone who's hurt me rather than get angry. I should state that it isn't always easy and every situation differs. However, I'm slowly getting there. I know this is God working in me. I don't take credit for anything or pat myself on the back. I thank God for revealing this to me and for softening my heart.
At the end of the day, Christians are still human beings. If I hold believers to the standard of God, I'll be let down every single time. If I can't be happy, kind, patient, and loving every second of my life, then who am I to hold that standard to other believers.
The enemy loves when we condemn every person who's ever hurt us, and when we point fingers rather than pray. He wants us to have enemies. But God calls us to do the opposite. It's not easy. Do we ever feel like hugging the person who gossiped behind our back? Do we ever feel like praying for someone who's taken something away from us? No. It's a decision we make. I'm learning this through Enemies of The Heart by Andy Stanley. I highly recommend it. It's truly one of the best books I've read this year.
One of my favorite quotes is this:
The deeper meaning of the parable of the ungrateful servant probably didn't hit Peter until months later, when he found himself staring at Jesus hanging from a Roman cross. If this was the price of his forgiveness, then who was he to withhold forgiveness from another? God's decision to forgive Peter required the death of his Son; Peter's decision to forgive those who had offended him would cost him little more than his pride.