Unforgiven about struggling to forgive and who it actually hurts - namely ourselves.
There's a lot of banter in the news these days about what a "Christian" should be - in accordance with the world's definition.
The stereotype fits one of two extremes:
- The Hard-line Conservative. These guys are almost as bad and in some cases worse than the Pharisees of Jesus's day. They wander around yelling "You're all going to Hell, Directly to Hell, Do not pass 'Go', Do not collects $200". Their "gospel" is a list of their accomplishments whether they are financial, "philanthropic", or pseudo-spiritual in nature and they espouse that one can only be a "real" christian if their behaviour is the role model. Their emphasis tends to lie in what we must do: repent, regenerate, seek Christ (their version).
- The Hard-line Liberal. These guys are more wishy-washy about their beliefs. They tailor the gospel to fit the person or group they are speaking to and not offend anyone, thereby offending everyone often. It's hard to find a solid foundation for their stand in scripture but they assure you it's there. They emphasise the "positives" of their brand; forgiveness, salvation, christianity and heaven but - as William Booth noted in the early 20th Century - they don't (often) mention the Holy Spirit, repentance, regeneration or Hell.
- Everything Christ did is only complete if I add my effort into it and never even think about anything other than Jesus ever again
- I can do anything I want because Jesus loves me and forgives me so let's party now and we'll have another one in Heaven
"Evangelicals" get lumped in with the right-wing xenophobic, misogynistic, sexist, racists who twist the Bible into a hammer to oppress anyone who dares to disagree with their specific interpretation if they mention Hell.
If they don't mention Hell then those same people get lumped in with the radical left-wing that says anything goes and in the most extreme cases indicates that all religions worship the same god anyway - pantheistic beliefs like Paul attacked in the New Testament - so what does it matter.
I don't fit either stereotype. I've been labelled as both and told I can't really be a Christian because I don't fit either on the same day in the past. I believe that most typical Christians would fall into the gap between.
The problem is it's the stereotypes that grab the headlines.
I don't fit the mold.
I watch movies a "good" christian shouldn't watch. I'm not talking about over-sexed stuff, but I enjoy a good action movie like Braveheart, Home Front and the Terminator series. I enjoy the pure fantasy movies that have come from Marvel's stable recently like the Avengers and X-Men series that bear no resemblance to real-life at all, and I particularly enjoyed Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and the Narnia movies in recent years.
Not your stereotypical christian's choice in movies.
I also spend a lot of time in the Word. More time than I do in movies. I listen to sermon recordings most nights before (and sometimes while) I fall asleep for several hours at a time. I focus my thoughts as best as I can during the day on what I find God in when I wake up. Some days it's easier than others, but it's always there.
I look for where Christ leads me for regeneration, not to make myself regenerate. I look for the direction He leads me in for healing of a physical and emotional nature. I've received miraculous healings of a sudden nature many times when I've been injured and I've seen dramatic changes in my daily health as I draw closer to Him. There are things I've not received a full healing from yet, but I know that has more to do with my ability to receive than His willingness to give.
Now don't get all tied up with that. My ability to receive has nothing to do with my works any more than yours does. I simply have a block in my head that stops me being able to believe it's done. Those blocks get broken down over time and healing progresses. I was healed of gout about 11 years ago when it got past the block in my brain that I could be healed of it. I stopped the medication as a result of that faith and have never had a problem since.
Please note: Faith produces Action - Action does not produce Faith!
I take medication for diabetes. Have done for over 15 years. Diabetes is classed as a "progressive" illness, meaning it gets worse as time goes on, affecting eyesight, kidneys and other issues. When I was diagnosed I wasn't equipped spiritually to rebuke the diagnosis or receive healing for it. It progressed for a couple of years then something changed in me. I listened to an old tape from a conference I had attended several years earlier given by Dave Duell, and it shifted something inside me. I began to be able to receive that which God has for me in some areas of my life. In the case of the diabetes it has stopped progressing. I've changed medications for more modern drugs than I was taking, but not had to increase my medication levels, and in the last six months I've begun to see the levels of excess sugar in my blood stream dropping first to normal levels, and now more regularly to low levels - indicating I may be able to reduce my doses.
I'm going to say this again: ACTION DOES NOT PRODUCE FAITH!
I have faith that I am being healed - at the pace I am able to receive it, not necessarily the speed God would want to heal me. I believe God wants me healed more than I want to be, but I'm human. He looks at me (or you) and sees His Son. I (or you) look in the mirror and see every flaw and sin between us. As a result I don't get perfect results receiving for myself. Often when we pray we get better results of answered prayer when we pray for a stranger or a friend than for ourselves because it's easier to ignore the enemy's jibes about their past than it is about our own. I know that's what gets in the way for me - well, that and my stubborn heart. So 16 years after I was told this issue affected me, and had been doing so for some time, I was told I have the eyes and kidney function of a non-diabetic last year.
It's a small personal victory, but a victory nonetheless.
I don't claim to have completed the journey of Faith in this issue, but I've started down the road.
That's a "typical" response for today's Christians - especially in the Westernised world where modern healthcare and conveniences mean we can forget to rely on God for our every need.
In developing countries there is a deeper understanding of God's true Nature as our source and as a result many more testimonies come from those countries than the West of miraculous healings, provision and other miracles.
The modern stereotypes diminish God in the eyes of the developed world to a fable or myth and the Bible as nothing more than a code of ethics and stories for children.
But we are inhabited by the Holy Spirit. It's time to shake loose the stereotypes and get back to the core of the Gospel. We need to find the words to say we're not stereotypes.
Let's get back to believing the way Peter did when he spoke on the day of Pentecost and 5000 people joined the Church in Jerusalem. The way he did when he met the cripple at the gate of the temple and commanded him to walk in Jesus's Name.
We have the same Spirit.
That should be typical Christianity...