This week a close friend asked me, “How do you truly live as a son of God? Why is that so hard for me?” He asked it like I had completely figured that out. I have not. Not even close.
But, what a great question. Not much in our culture teaches or encourages us “to live as a son or daughter of God.”
Several years ago, I was invited to lead a retreat for a small group of men. I think there were about 8 or 10 of us. During our first evening together I had everyone introduce themselves. One of the men quickly began to talk about how often he just doesn’t feel good enough in life. He went on to share about some of the fears and insecurities that he was facing. He asked, “How do I get over all that? What do I need to do?”
Another great question!
Think about it. Almost everything in life is teaching you that you have to be good enough at something in order to be considered valuable. It starts early and keeps going.
- You get picked last for the football game on the playground = I am not athletic enough.
- You try out for the school play and don’t get a part = I am not talented enough.
- You study hard but still don’t pass the test = I am not smart enough.
- You interview for the job but don’t get it = I am not qualified.
- You get a bad performance review at work and get laid off = I am useless.
Even our labels make it hard. Eugene Peterson puts it like this, “We get labeled early and frequently in nonrelational terms: first-grader, smart, cute, average, short, second string. As we enter adulthood nonrelational labels continue…”
The realities of life are powerful. People don’t get the job, the part, the passing grade. Those things are part of life. But they should not define life.
Peterson goes on to say, “These labels are inevitable and in many ways useful but the common element to them all is that they are impersonal and partial; when they become all-encompassing…they distort our core identity.”
Since we deal with those types of labels and experiences in life, they slip into the way we think about our faith. We start wondering, “Am I performing well enough for God?”
That’s the wrong question.
For the Christ follower, life is defined by a different label that has nothing to do with how good you perform. The labels are love and grace, even when nothing else in life is offering love and grace. It is the way of God. And it is central to what we believe and who we are. But it is too easy to forget.
Central to the purpose of Christian community and friendship is fighting for one another to live by love and grace.
Paul and Peter were constantly fighting to help others see themselves this way.
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:1
“So, as those who have been chosen by God, holy and dearly beloved.” Col. 3:12
“Knowing, brethren, beloved by God, His choice of you.” 1 Thess. 1: 4
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…” 1 Peter 2:9
One of the most loving and important things you can do for other Christ followers is to help them remember who they are, loved and covered by grace. In a world that is so deeply defined by whether you are “good enough”or not, you have the privilege and responsibility to tell them the truth. They are loved. They are a part of a family defined by grace. I believe that the impact of the performance driven labels would go down if we as believers would do better at communicating love and grace. It is too easy for all of us to forget who we are. We need each other to help us remember.
Here are a few ways to practice reminding people of love and grace?
- In Your Home– Highlight a specific family member every now at then at the dinner table. Have everyone else in the family speak encouraging words to them about their character. Then pray specifically for that person.
- In Your Friendships– When a friend comes to mind, immediately send them a text or give them a call just to tell them you are grateful for who they are.
- In Your Workplace– If your work environment allows, initiate a conversation with a coworker just to get to know them for something other than their role at work.
You will be surprised at how powerful simple things like these can be in someone’s life.