Try this: the next time a friend says, “Luuuuuke, I am your faaaaather”, tell him that this line doesn’t actually appear in any of the Star Wars movies. (Darth Vader says something to this effect in The Empire Strikes Back, but it’s not this line.) Even if you sat him down and fast-forwarded to the scene in the Cloud City vent, my guess is that your friend will still repeat the same line incorrectly (because he just wants to be be funny, and now he knows that it bugs you when he says it wrong, so it’s even more fun for him to do so).
For years, I was sure that two people who couldn’t come to an agreement had reached an empasse. Since I don’t speak any Italian (beyond some basic food names), though, the correct phrase is that two parties reach an impasse, as a good dictionary (or even the Internet) will tell you. Still, every time I’m ready to write about that phrase, I’m tempted to write down what I thought was correct – and probably used regularly for years.
In the book of 1 John, the writer makes a pretty dramatic claim about those who say that they are following God:
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
1 John 1:6 NASB
Lest you think that this verse is taken out of context, see also 1 John 2:3-6, or just read the entire book of 1 John (it’s only 5 chapters in total).
While this passage can easily be abused into condemning others inappropriately (and I’m not suggesting that at all, but more on that, later), the message – taken at face value – is still clear. For anyone of us who claims to have a good relationship with God, but clearly continues to dwell in a sinful lifestyle, the facts cannot be masked by any amount of words to the contrary.
Jesus had made a similar statement – that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. (This is recorded in John 14:15, by the same author of the book cited above.)
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
John 14:15 NASB
As a result, no amount of saying that we love, believe in, or follow Jesus can really compensate for not trying to follow His instructions diligently. Simply signing our name on a church roll, putting a fish on our car1, or telling people that we’re Christians doesn’t cut it. It is clear that actually aligning ourselves with Jesus requires a visible change in our lifestyle.
To be clear: true, honest, genuine, sincere Christians – those who love God deeply and strive to follow the teachings of Jesus – will still fall short from time to time. Even leaders of the early church had their struggles and misunderstandings. These were people who walked with Jesus, lived like He taught, and eventually gave their lives for their faith (because they were clearly acting like the ideal that Jesus had set, which was incompatible with other beliefs in their culture). Still, even as followers of Jesus, they were imperfect (see Romans 7:15-17).
So, we can’t condemn others who sin differently from us. However, there seems to be a difference between choosing to make a change in our lives (that is, turning away from the no-effort, passive path we followed when we were controlled by sin), versus only giving lip service to our walk with Jesus. As a result, there may be times in our lives when we either need to:
- Take a hard look at our choices, and honestly answer Jesus as to whether we love Him (see John 21:15-17). This must be done in the context of how He defined what life would look like for those who love Him, as quoted above.
- Gently – and lovingly – guide others around us out of darkness. I cannot stress enough the requirement to balance both grace and truth in these conversations. Our goal must never be to wish evil on others, but rather that – because of our love for them, as fellow souls who are also loved by God – we want them to experience the blessing and joy of living in the light.
I hope that you do love Jesus, and that you do your best – with the help of the Holy Spirit – to keep His commandments. Then, your words won’t have to contradict the facts that others can see.
And, for those who don’t currently seek to follow Jesus, I sincerely hope that His teachings will be fairly judged by observing those who truly love Him and seek to keep His commandments, with the understanding that even those Christians haven’t yet reached the perfection that they strive for. Trying to measure the teachings of Jesus Christ by someone who claims Him without truly following Him is destined to be fruitless.
Love Jesus. Walk in the light. Obey His commandments. And, don’t let the rough times – when you fall short once again – get you down.
- Putting On a Good Face
- Truth in Advertising
- Even Our Mistakes are Part of the Plan
- Read the Bible, Go to Church, Pray, and…
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.