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Ethics, Morals, Behavior

Honest Christianity
by Ed Vasicek

One verse Christians frequently commit to memory is 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (NIV)

I have it memorized in the New American Standard version, but regardless of the version, this verse is oozing with practical implications. For example, it is great to know that whatever tempts you also tempts many other people. Although people are not necessarily tempted by the same things, there are no unique temptations. Perhaps what tempts us most is determined by our personalities and experiences. For example, some people raised in messed-up families become control freaks. Others are not tempted with control issues, but they constantly fight materialism.  Although most people face a degree of sexual temptation, not everyone struggles equally in that area.

The verse also goes on to say that God limits the temptations He sends our way and that He provides a method for us to endure it. That can involve anything from fleeing the circumstances (as Joseph fled when Potiphar's wife attempted to seduce him) to distracting one's mind or keeping busy. But this article is not so much about temptation as it is the fact that so much of our life experiences are "common to man."

Once in a while I'll ask someone for a ballpark estimate. Here is a sample conversation: "I have no idea what a swimming pool costs. Can you give me an idea of about how much one would cost, just a ballpark figure?" Some folks would respond, much to my irritation, "Not much." What does that mean? It probably depends upon their income. If we were to ask again, we might hear, "You know, not a lot." We can plead and beg these folks to give us some kind of ballpark figure, but they refuse. But if we say, "You mean only a hundred dollars?" They'll say, "no, of course not." Then they'll finally give you a ballpark figure.

Sometimes the same dynamic holds true within the Christian community. As a new believer (and even a new pastor who conversed with other pastors), I found many believers were tight-lipped and secretive about their humanity. They never worried, instead they were merely "concerned." They always forgave, never held a grudge, and all their struggles seemed past. It was as phony as a three-dollar bill. These Christians were more concerned about looking good and concealing their humanity than they were about helping others get a "ballpark" idea about the Christian life lived out in this real world of ours.

I recall my experiences as a young twenty-two-year-old pastor, serving in the city of Chicago. My suburban pastor friends would listen to some of the situations I had to deal with, but never stated what I needed to hear: "This person is unreasonable and seems mentally troubled," or "We all have nutty people to deal with. Some people are just messes who blame everyone and everything else for their woes." Why are we so hesitant to speak truthfully? Have we learned to lie in the name of not being judgmental? Are we afraid to say we do not know, or that some problems simply have no solutions?  Fortunately, my current pastor friends are direct and forthcoming. I love those guys!

Being open and honest is not only important for our own well-being, helping us to think more truthfully, it also provides a paradigm for newer believers. Struggling newlyweds need to know that the marriages of their godly seniors have had their rough spots and still sometimes do.  They need to know that being godly does not mean eliminating all interests and hobbies and that Christ is not on their minds every moment, that the godly get frustrated, that they have bad moods and sometimes worry and fret. They are less-than-perfect parents, and may not always have the answers to all behavioral problems. Sometimes they make bad financial decisions or put off responsibilities or bite off more than they can chew. Sometimes they get out of rhythm and struggle to have devotions. Sometimes they get crotchety and critical. They can feel depressed, seethe with anger, might struggle with cynical attitudes, get bogged down with trivia and detail, be unrealistic, or have a hard time breaking habits. In short, they can be like you. And our energies are better spent in growing than in concealing.

Growing in Jesus Christ means, among other things, that we will overcome some of these problems. We will no longer be characterized by these vices, at least to the degree that we once were.  Some of the examples mentioned about are not actually vices, just part of being human. And we have to get comfortable with our humanity, not deny it. And other people, particularly in the Body of Christ, need to see that being human is a good thing, not something to pretend away.

When it comes to sins and vices, in some instances we will experience total victory as we grow; in others frequent victory. In some areas, we may simply tone down the weakness. And, if we are to be completely realistic, in a few areas, we will make no substantial progress at all. But looking at our lives overall, others should easily see the stamp of Jesus Christ all over the place.

So, remember, when you are grieving, cry and let your feelings out. Don't stuff them to impress others. When you haven't forgiven someone, you don't need to broadcast that, but be honest with yourself and at least let others know you are struggling. If you are depressed, don't go on a guilt trip because of it. When you are afraid of a diagnosis, let the Body know it. Maybe you think you should not be afraid. So what is the church for, to help you pretend, to pressure you into lying, or to help you and encourage you? David said, "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." He had no reservations about admitting he was afraid. It is sad that so many Christians do. By quiet consent, we play the game called "pretend." No one says so; it is an unspoken rule. New believers quickly stumble over it and soon learn to play along.

But you know, we don't do that too much here at HPC.  I am sure we are not blameless, but we want our church to be a fellowship where you are encouraged to accept your humanity and that of others. We are aiming high, but reality is what is, not what ideally should be. And the only way to move forward is to honestly face where we are. This honest approach draws some but sadly repels others. Maybe my motivation is selfish, but I sure love pastoring a church where I can be myself! I hope that you feel that same freedom!
Pastor Ed

Reprinted from the April 2003 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.

Highland Park Church   516 W. Sycamore St. Kokomo, Indiana, 46901 USA   (765)452-1779    church@highlandpc.com    Main Service: Sun 10:30 a.m.