Austin and I got married almost 10 years ago. Most of the wedding was a blur... but what I do clearly remember is how God encouraged me. For our first dance we couldn't think of a song to dance to, a song that fit us and our relationship (at least not one you could dance to). We chose one and it was fine, but a couple weeks after the wedding I heard the perfect song. I was really sad I hadn't thought of it before the wedding. I know this is a silly thing to be upset about, but I was. I think mostly because it reminded me of all the other mistakes I make. I got down on myself, frustrated that I make so many mistakes... "I couldn't even pick the right song" I thought. But then a thought popped in my head (That is how the Lord often speaks to me, though I always have to weigh it against scripture), "Jesus died for mistakes too."
I have been processing what it looks like to live out the gospel in close relationships. I'm not sure if this is true for everyone, but for me and for Austin it seems that it is easiest to be most critical about and to those you are closest to, those you spend the most time with. I would imagine this is because the closer you are to someone, the more time you spend with them, the more you see their non-perfections.
I could tell many stories (even that happened within the last few days) of how critical we can be over little things, but I'm not sure that would interest anyone. (Unless of course I had the great story telling ability of my friend Sara McNutt or the incredible humor of my friend Andrea Harman).
So there is this diagram that illustrates that as we grow as followers of Jesus we become more aware of our sin, illustrated by a diagonal arrow angling the bottom right corner of the page, and we become more aware of God's perfection, illustrated by a diagonal arrow angling the top right corner of the page. The gap in the center between the two diagonal lines grows evidencing more and more our need... our non-perfection. (Not that it wasn't that big before, but we as we grow we just become more aware of it). We can either respond by trying harder to live the perfect Christian life or we can realize what Gal. 3:3 says, "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?" We can turn our eyes and trust toward Jesus just like we did when we first gave our life to Him. Trust that we are not perfect, but He is. So the more we see our imperfectness and God's perfectness and trust Jesus to bridge the gap... to redeem our imperfections continually, our view of the sufficiency of Jesus grows. Instead of human effort trying to fill the gap of living the Christian life, the sufficiency and redemption of Jesus does. In our personal failures this is a good reminder, but how does it relate to criticizing our siblings in Christ?
Just as we are free to fail (not that failing is good, but is redeemable), so are they. So instead of expecting and demanding perfection from other believers, criticizing when they don't measure up, we need to remember and respond as though Jesus died for their mistakes too. We need to look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of their faith and trust that He is the great redeemer of mistakes.
So the next time I get upset about someone not measuring up to perfection, the next time I want to criticize Austin about his tone of voice toward me, I want to be quick to (by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit) remember Jesus' sacrifice for their/his non-perfection, and Jesus' ability to redeem. I don't want to be a person that pushes people to fill the gap with self-effort (constantly putting before them their non-perfection and God's perfection without reminding them of the reality that Jesus already covered theIr mistakes). I want to be a reminder of the sufficiency of Christ. I don't know about everyone, but I am a person that is aware of my ever-present failures and I need to be reminded more of Jesus' sufficiency in my mistakes more than my failures. I think this could be true for most people. Just as God reminded me that Jesus died for mistakes too... lets be the reminder to others.