As a little girl, I used to catch wild creatures in hopes of keeping them for pets. Mice. Snakes. Bugs. Turtles. Frogs. Pigeons. (Lice infested pigeons.) Once I almost caught a little owl-type-bird, but it pecked at me so viciously I released it. When I had it cornered, it spread its wings back, looked at me with its beady little black eyes, and did the strangest hiss. It made my heart stand still for the briefest second, sending little electrical shocks and shivers down to my toes. It looked like a little demon. (Years later, reading Frank Perretti’s books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, I pictured the demons he wrote of, to look much like that evil little bird.)
I dragged home the creatures I caught, and tried to convince my mother to let me keep them. I wanted them to be my pets, to belong to me. It never worked. The creatures didn’t appeal to her. She didn’t want them.
I did win in one situation, with Dad. And, though it wasn’t a wild creature, it was the next thing to it. Our neighbour boy brought a ratty looking old stray cat that he had found somewhere, and tried to sell her to Dad. She was gaunt and sickly looking, and Dad wasn’t interested. But to me she was a beautiful calico, and I assured Dad that if I took good care of her, she would get better. Dad paid the dollar for the cat.
It’s a long story, and a rather disgusting one, so I won’t tell it, even though it was one of my proudest moments, but as I doctored that cat, she got well. I did minor surgery as an 8-yr-old, using tools from my mothers sewing machine–something I never did confess to her–and soon the cat, whom we named ‘Tiger’, was fat and healthy. Not long after, she was fatter than ever, and pregnant. She became the mother of many, and grandmother of countless little beauties.
Dad kind of claimed her as his cat, which was okay, but secretly I claimed her as mine. I had swayed him to buy a sick old cat he thought wasn’t worth a dollar. And more importantly, I had healed her. Something I never told him.
Most of my time, interacting with people, is spent across the table drinking coffee or sipping tea–depending on the time of day. (I’m over 40, so the days of drinking coffee all day long, and sleeping well at night, are over.) Often, when I refer to conversations, I write about ‘sitting across the table’ from someone. It’s not just a line I use, it’s a life I live and love, and I’ve been blessed to sit with some of you, my faithful readers. Something I consider an honour.
That said, I recently sat across the table from a beautiful young woman, with whom I am blessed to meet on a bi-weekly basis. She is so pure of heart, so honest, so transparent. I won’t share any of her story, because it isn’t mine to tell, other than to refer to a question she asked me on the most recent visit. Someone had told her that after we accept Christ, we should be able to attain sinless perfection, in this life. She wondered if I agree with that.
I don’t profess to have all the answers, but that one I have an answer ready, without hours of study. My answer was, “No, we will never attain perfect holiness in this life.” If it depends on us attaining, we Christians are as sinful as any. Our thoughts are, from time to time, filled with hate, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, pride, covetousness, lust and all manner of evil.
I have not met a full-grown adult, born again or not, who is of sound mind, and does not struggle with at least some of these things, from time to time. Some will arrogantly pretend, but start asking the hard questions and they will either confess, or sin by lying.
We are sinful creatures. That’s a fact. When Jesus saves us, He gives us power to overcome sin, but in our humanity, we fail miserably. It is therefore not our behaviour that makes us saved. It is the love of Jesus, our faith in His sacrifice, as the Son of God, and our willingness to repent, that makes all the difference. The New Testament says repeatedly, “Repent and believe, and you will be saved” or “Repent, believe and be baptized…”
Our salvation is much less dependent on our behaviour, than most of us give it credit for. (And our opinion of our own sinlessness is often a bit high.) Should we not care, then, about our behaviour? Of course we should! If we are truly sold out for Jesus Christ, we will want to reflect Him in our lives and our behaviours. We don’t plan to sin. We put every effort into living a life of holiness, but when we find ourselves in sin, and we will, we repent quickly.
Even the Apostle Paul, whom I would regard highly as a man of God, a man of holiness, and a man of integrity, has this to say:
New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
18 I know there is nothing good in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I can’t.
19 I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do.
20 I do what I don’t want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me.
21 Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
22 Deep inside me I find joy in God’s law.
23 But I see another law working in the parts of my body. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls the parts of my body.
24 What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body?
25 I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord. So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law. But in my sinful nature I am a slave to the law of sin.
Paul, in his sinfulness and humanity, recognizes that he will fail. He strives for a life of holiness, but, in the end, he says, “What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin and it’s impact? I thank God, who will save me through Jesus.”
If Paul has to fall back on that, when he dedicated his entire life to ministry and suffering, who am I to pretend that I, of my own effort, am holy? Or that I am even capable of attaining holiness? I am made holy only through Jesus Christ, who presents me to the Father based on His love for me, not on my righteousness, which amounts to filthy rags.
I picture Jesus taking me, sinful and human, and presenting me to God kind of like that stray cat. Sin does a number on me, and makes me look sick and not too appealing. But Jesus doesn’t look on me as I truly am, in my sinfulness. He looks on the ‘sinful me’, and sees the ‘loved and redeemed’ version of me, and that is who He presents to God. He sees me as made whole through His love and grace, in spite of the healing that needs to happen.
Just as my father saw the sick cat through the eyes of my love, and it became his favourite cat, so God sees us through they eyes of the love of Jesus. He embraces us, grunge and all, and accepts us as His own. Adopted. Loved.
© Trudy Metzger
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