Does Your Image Reflect Who You Are?

Dispelling the Illusion of Perfection
Those Lousy Sinners
What does a Christian look like?  How does he or she act?  Someone once said, “a Christian is not perfect, just forgiven.”  We all know that no one is perfect, but unfortunately, many believers in Christ try to give the appearance that they are pretty close to it.  We apply a veneer of righteousness to our lives that reflects an illusion of perfection.  Jesus spoke of two individuals in the Bible.  One who had this illusion and one who didn’t.
                 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other
                   was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed
                   this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else….
                   13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes
                   to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God,   
                   be merciful to me, for I am a sinner. 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee,
                   returned home justified before God.”  (Luke 18:10-11,13 NLT).
So we have one man, the Pharisee, who was self-assured about his righteousness, and the other man, the tax collector, who was sure of only one thing, he desperately needed a savior.  The sinner returned home justified and the religious man did not.  Let me tell you a story about a religious man who once had his veneer of righteousness peeled back a bit and exposed some of his clay feet.
I Gave Her a Couple Angry Scowls
The setting was a Youth With A Mission (YWAM for short) missionary training center in central Virginia.  On one occasion a couple that worked with me on recruiting projects in North Carolina came to Virginia to visit us. Our relationship was valuable on a personal level and important as a ministry connection. In fostering these kinds of relationships, we can try to make a good impression, and in doing so be tempted to distort our image somewhat.  We appear to have it together, when we know we really don’t.  This may have been slightly the case in this visit with my friends.
  One Sunday morning this couple arrived at our apartment for breakfast before church. My guests were in the dining area waiting while I helped my daughters get ready for church in the adjacent bedroom. For some reason, uncharacteristically, my youngest daughter was not being cooperative in getting ready for church. Most Sundays our family trips to church were uneventful, but on this day it was tough sledding.
The delayed obedience of my daughter coupled with the pressure to entertain our guests was getting to me. I peered at her a couple of times with an angry scowl. No response.  Finally, I lost it. I let my daughter have it verbally, in a very angry and unloving fashion. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew I was wrong. Right away, I apologized to her and asked for her forgiveness. As most kids are, she was quick to forgive. I felt a lot better—until I envisioned my guests in the next room with surprised looks on their faces. Had they heard what I said? They probably had. What would they think about me now?
We finally made it out to breakfast. I sat down at the table. I looked left and then right, trying to avoid eye contact for fear of getting the look—the look that says, “How could you do something like that”?  Trying to appear normal, I wondered if I would make it through this meal with my ego in tact?  Needless to say, it was a very uncomfortable breakfast.
We finished breakfast. I returned to the bedroom and told the Lord, “I can’t avoid their eyes all day. Lord, what do I do?” I felt impressed to tell the couple exactly what had happened and to ask them to pray for me. After church we went to a restaurant for lunch. We paused to pray for our food. Now was my chance. I looked at them with a feeling of impending doom in the pit of my stomach. They were going to know me for how I really was.  “I don’t know if you heard or not,” I said, “but I really lost it with my daughter this morning. I didn’t handle the stress very well. Would you guys pray for me in that area?” The husband smiled from cheek to cheek. At first I thought maybe he was laughing at me. Then, from his demeanor, I realized it was not that kind of smile. Continuing to grin, he said, “That’s what we like about you YWAMers. You have the rhema”—he liked the Greek word rhema(word, revelation)—“in this area of openness!”  At that moment reality exploded in my mind. The fear of being authentic was based on an illusion. The incident that I thought would bring a loss of respect, when I openly admitted it, actually heightened my guests’ appreciation. I saw it afresh and anew: the enemy lies to us. He seeks to keep us in darkness. He deceives us into hiding. But God desires that we live openly and honestly before him and people.  God seeks to dispel the illusion of perfection and he blesses authentic living.

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