The Good Christian

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Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you,
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer; the Confession of Sin-

Today, I think I am a good Christian. I read my Bible, and take careful notes. I pray often. I remember to write a note to the friend whose week is stressful; I encourage the girl next to me in class. Yes, I tell myself as I brush my teeth and prepare for bed, I’m certainly doing well at this Christian thing.-

Until, that is, I begin to pray this prayer. I can get through the first two lines just fine – I nod in agreement and think about how faithful and godly I am. Then, I reach line three. I stop. I remember that my thoughts today weren’t all together lovely or very beautiful. I complained inwardly about the subzero temperatures, the statistics midterm, the annoying girl in the library. I envied those who had things I didn’t.
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I finally make it to the fifth line and realize all I have left undone; all I failed to do. I didn’t say hello to the girl I passed on the way to history class – I didn’t want to deal with her problems. I remember the words in James 4 – “Anyone . . . who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins” and feel more ashamed. Maybe, I think, I’m not as good as I thought. I don’t meet all these standards very well.-
I read the eighth line: “[I am] truly sorry and [I] humbly repent.” I think about Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and his chapter entitled “The Art of Virtue.” In this chapter, he outlines a program for becoming a better, more virtuous person. His plan includes a list of thirteen virtues he wishes to acquire, and a chart for tracking his progress in obtaining each one. He writes of his decision to concentrate on one virtue a week and then note each time he failed in displaying that trait. His goal was to eventually embody each of these thirteen virtues and become an extraordinarily good man.
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When I read this line about repenting, I want to emulate Franklin. I think that if I just pay closer attention, watch my tongue more, create a syllabus of “what I need to do to be a good Christian” then I can meet the standards and get an “A” in the Christian life. I start to stand up and reach for a piece of blank paper in order to draw a chart like Franklin’s. My eye happens to read the next bit of the prayer, though, and I pause. “Have mercy on [me]” the prayer reads. This is it? I feel confused. Simply an appeal to mercy; to forgiveness? No pleas for strength – for one more chance not to mess up? No bargaining? No telling God “if I fail again, you can give me a lower grade in statistics?” Just kneeling, and asking for grace?-

My questions give way to an answer. I realize that, yes, I must simply ask for grace. My God knows that I am a sinner and that I will keep on sinning. He beckons me to ask for mercy, to repent, and to draw near to Him. Instead of fixing myself, I am to let Him fix me. I am to know I am nothing, and in this to find great joy as I trust Him to transform me. I remember the words of Jesus in John 6 “the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” and am comforted. My job is to believe; not to do. To admit my sin, to repent and humbly ask that I be given mercy and be transformed into the likeness of His Son.
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I feel peace as I finish the prayer. May my plea for mercy, my transformation, be always “to the glory of [His] name.” Amen.

Comments

  1. I waat to thank you for this article, I have been struggling in this area for months and for the first time I have true peace in Christ. It is so comforting to know that I never have to be perfect and that He alone is perfect. It's wonderful to know that He is transforming me everyday! God bless you ministry and keep up your work!

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