Watch That “I”!
Some dear saints never do anything for God because they are perfectionists. They think they must fly before they can walk. This can happen in the homeschool and church renewal movements. Some of us are so taken up with the heavenlies that we are of no earthly good. We exalt the ideal church but never commit ourselves to a local congregation. We become critical and censorious of the imperfections of our brethren. We bask in contemplating the true church in its ideal state but refuse to work with ordinary Christians in all the problems of the average local fellowship.
It is a blessed thing to work for renewal in the home and church. But it also has its perils. Just as the good can become the enemy of the best, so the best can become the enemy of the good. I have strong convictions about what the family and the church ought to look like, but the cross spells death to self and to all the ambitions and desires and wisdom of the Old Adam. The middle letter in “sin” is “I,” and sin is nothing but I-trouble.
We live in a part of Virginia where nobody homeschools and where traditions often strangle our churches. Yet we love our local churches and they love us. Why? The difference between “united” and “untied” depends on where you put the “I.” It is the “I” that causes most church troubles.
Renewalists are sorely deceived if they think they can work for reform while thumbing their nose at their neighbors. Sometimes a Roman centurion or a Syrophoenician woman gets the blessing when the insiders miss it. Many of God’s choicest servants attend our most convention-bound churches or teach in our nastiest public schools. Mediocre men often sit in high seats while truly great Christians minister in Podunk.
Those who refuse to accept the status quo or conform to the low standards of contemporary Christianity have a tendency to see people as utterly good or bad. They have no tolerance for that great mass of humanity that does not stand out as either good or bad. They become impatient when they find so few who manage to attain the high mark they have set for their fellows. They settle into a smug posture of superiority.
Instead of being indulgent toward this prideful attitude, we need a holy abhorrence of it. We are all blind until God opens our eyes. But none is so blind as those who think they see everything perfectly. They are like the Pharisees who mistook religiousness for righteousness and proudly asserted, “Are we blind also?” (John 9:40).
This does not mean that we are to follow the crowd or live as though imperfection were the standard. God expects more from us. But He expects more from us because He is ready to work in us patiently both to will and do what He expects. Meanwhile, we must be patient with ourselves and with others.
Someone once said that a cross is an “I” crossed out. So is the Christian. Let us, then, consent to our identification with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection, so that in all we do we can say with Paul, “Not I, but Christ” (Gal. 2:20).
May 12, 2006
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.