faith, illness, testimony

The Lie of Perfect Performance

We live in earthly bodies.

For now.

One day, Christ will gloriously return and all will be changed.

I’m looking forward to that day. Someday, this illness-ridden body will be replaced by a glorious new body that’s free of any malfunctions.

But for now, I live in this body.

Christ gives us victory of the control of sin in our lives, but He doesn’t free us from this body which was cursed at the Fall.

Since Adam and Eve sinned, our bodies have been decaying and sickly. Our genetics have been breaking down over time increasing the ailments that affect our bodies.

Some of these ailments are physical; some are mental or psychological.

Why is this important?

Because a certain percentage of Christians equate salvation and godliness to perfect performance.

Not just sinless performance (even that is not 100% possible this side of heaven) but also mistake-less performance.

Perfect performance means that those around us never think we do anything wrong. Not even Jesus himself accomplished that!

 

It’s important here to discuss the difference between a mistake and a sin.

A sin is a trespass of God’s commands.

If you know someone who makes lots of bad choices they will often defend it by saying, “I made a mistake.” You don’t accidentally rob a convenience store. You choose. It is a bad choice, but it is still a choice. That’s not a mistake. That’s an intentional choice.

A mistake would be something that’s not a sin.

Losing your keys, for instance, is not a sin. It is a function of your brain not filing memories correctly and not retrieving the location of the keys when you go looking for them.

Forgetting an appointment is not a sin. It is a function of your brain forgetting to look at a calendar or forgetting to enter information into the calendar to begin with.

If I’m making a batch of cookies and I accidentally add 9 cups of flour when the recipe calls for 6 cups, this is a mistake. My brain, with it’s sinful-nature-affected issues, switched the number around, and now I’m going to have to make a double batch of cookies which includes running to the store for more butter.

These are mistakes.

They are brain-malfunctions.

[I’ve stopped and started this post 3 times now. So much of what I’m saying seems like it should be common sense, like it should go without saying. But, over and over, I’m reminded that it needs saying.]

If you’ve ever been exposed to the extreme (false) doctrine that teaches that all true Christians will become perfect on this earth, you get a front row seat to the kind of perfect performance I’m referring too.

If you believe your entrance to heaven is dependant on you doing and saying the right things at all time, you can easily fall into the trap of perfect performance. (Salvation is not based on works. It is based on faith alone.)

Our type-A culture reinforces this viewpoint by looking down at anyone who seems to have any flaws: the mom with the messy house, the guy that’s 5 minutes late to a meeting, the lady who forgets to bring her paperwork to the doctor.

Somehow, our character became less about not sinning and more about never making a mistake.

This idea has been adopted by our churches as our culture takes more of a hold on our churches.

Prosperity gospel also lends to this false idea. Prosperity gospel teaches that God will give you health, wealth, and happiness. (This is the exact opposite of the New Testament teaching that you’ll suffer and have hardship if you follow Jesus.)

Along with this false prosperity gospel comes the idea that Jesus will allow us to break through the confines of our fallen bodies, because He wants us to be happy. Being forgetful doesn’t make you happy. So, if you just have enough faith, you won’t be forgetful anymore.

It would be nice if it worked like that. But, God is more interested in us bringing Him glory than us being happy.

Another culprit is the idea that we were all created equal. Were we? Truly?

It depends.

Were we all created with equal value? Yes, absolutely!

A 2-year-old with Down’s syndrome is no less valuable in God’s eyes than a 25-year old with an IQ of 160 or 12-year old savant.

We are all created with equal value, but we are not created with equal ability.

Some of us are born exceptionally intelligent or incredibly gifted. Others are born with physical deformities or mental disabilities. Even among those who don’t have extreme giftings or extreme disabilities, there are differences.

Everyone, due to the Fall, has some handicap, be it great or small.

How discouraging it is when those with few handicaps look down on or even mistreat those who have more dysfunction than they do. (This is the kind of judging that is wrong.)

Our American culture believes that if you just try hard enough, you can do anything! Therefore, if you can’t do something, you simply aren’t trying hard enough.

Oh, how I wish that were true!

Oh, how I wish if I pushed harder I could get my sickly body to behave like it’s not sick.

Believe me, I have tried!

I’m the most stubborn person I know. I have pushed myself until I was bedridden and in so much pain I wished I would die.

It all backfired. The harder I pushed, the sicker I got.

Our bodies are sick and failing. From the moment we’re born, we’re dying.

Some of us are sicker than others.

For some people the Curse of the Fall affects the body, for others the brain.

Just like I can’t make my body be better just by pushing harder, someone with memory or focus problems (for example) can’t make their body be better just by pushing harder.

If they try, it is very likely they will just make things worse.

Now, depending on what ails you, you might be able to find a medication, supplement, or diet that helps your body or brain function better. But, we are all still affected by the fall and incapable of perfect performance.

So, stop expecting it from other people.

Stop expecting it from yourself.

Absolutely, don’t ignore true sin in your life.

Confess those and live in the power that Christ promised us to overcome that sinful hold on our lives. Address and overcome real sin in your life.

But, don’t confuse sinfulness with brain and body malfunctions.

There’s a huge difference.

Judging someone whose brain doesn’t function correctly for being forgetful is like being angry at a lame child that he doesn’t come to you when you call.

It’s beyond unreasonable.

It extremely cruel.

Frankly, it’s abusive.

Remember that the measure you use will be used on you; if you judge unfairly, you’ll be unfairly judged.

If Christ does not condemn, why should we?

I see this the most in the women I counsel.

Their husbands who are physically and mentally healthy (or healthier) judge them and treat them harshly, because the wifes’ brains and bodies are malfunctioning. Their husbands have decided that their wives’ brain or body malfunction is a character flaw, a sin.

It breaks my heart to hear stories about husbands yelling at and berating their wives, often in front of their children. It damages the marriage, and it leaves lasting scars on their children.

The wife, who already struggles with a malfunctioning brain and the social stigma associated with that, also faces the humiliation of being degraded in her own home and feels unloved, unappreciated, and attacked by the man who promised to love and cherish her.  

A husband who treats his wife this way is not only breaking his marriage vows, he’s disobeying God.

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7

Not only is the husband breaking the command to be understanding and show honor, but God will not hear his prayers until he repents of this sin.

Furthermore, the husband is breaking the command to “provoke his children to anger” in Ephesians 6:4

I guarantee that when his children see him mistreat his wife, they will be angry. His actions will provoke their anger against him in defense of their mother. I know, because I lived this scenario as a kid.

God calls us to love unconditionally like Jesus does.

We do not have to be good enough to earn Jesus’s love. Neither should a wife have to be good enough (not body or brain malfunction-free enough, not even sin-free enough, see the book of Hosea) to earn her husband’s love.

Christ gave his life in sacrificial love for the church. That’s the kind of love a husband is called to have for his wife.

The husband-wife relationship is just one place I have seen this play out.

We are all called to love each other without conditions. That’s how Jesus loved us. That is what should set the church apart from the world.

Perfect performance stands in stark contrast to unconditional love. Unconditional love means loving that person without them having to be good enough.

I’m so glad God loves me without conditions.

That’s the kind of love I’m trying to display in my life.

These earthly bodies are decaying and falling apart. We have a promise of new bodies in which our brains and bodies will work as they would have if the Fall had never happened.

Let’s not ruin our testimony by mistreating each other because of the effects of the Fall on our bodies and minds. We Christians are the only ones on this earth who have Hope beyond this life, beyond these frail bodies.

Let’s live in a way that accurately reflects God’s grace to this around us.

Let’s live in light of eternity.

Blessings,
Sarah Forbes

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

John 13:35

 

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