Lisa and I were lucky enough to be asked to do two workshops last weekend at the Cannon Beach Christian Center for the Branches of Valor Spring Conference. Branches of Valor is a group dedicated to helping active duty service member, veterans, and their families recover from the trauma of war, deployment, and reintegration.
One of the workshops we did was on marriage enrichment. We did a similar course last year called Negotiating Your Way to a Stronger Marriage that focused on how to make agreements that both people can honor. This year we used the Love and Respect series by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs as the foundation of our 90-minute presentation.
While all the Love and Respect materials are outstanding, Dr. Eggerichs makes one point that is especially important not just for marriage but for everything you do in your Christian walk. I want to take some time today to unpack this learning.
“Husband must love their wives regardless of performance, and wives must respect their husbands regardless of performance.”
If you think about that for a second you will realize how difficult that idea is. We all judge our spouses (and everyone else for that matter) based on whether or not they meet our expectations. What Dr. Eggerichs is saying is Godly marriages go beyond performance – Godly marriages are based on glorifying God by how you treat your spouse. You love your wife and respect your husband because you love and respect God not because they check the box and meet all your expectations. Wow, hard stuff.
But it gets harder when you start applying that in your Christian walk.
- You should love your enemies regardless of their performance
- You should pray for those who persecute you regardless of their performance
- You should forgive as you’ve been forgiven regardless of their performance
- You should turn the other cheek and accept an insult regardless of their performance
- You should love your neighbors as you love yourself regardless of your performance
- You should forgive yourself as God has forgiven you regardless of your performance
- You should consider others better than yourself regardless of their performance
These are just some examples; you can certainly apply the idea to other areas in your walk. In essence what we’re talking about here is grace – extending grace to people regardless of their performance. Loving them unconditionally (agape) as we have been commanded to do by Jesus.
But there is something you need to do in order to get to a place where you can love as Jesus loves us. You have to transform your thinking by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12) – you must start seeing people as God sees them instead of how you see them.
As Christians we often say we hate the sin but love the sinner. Unfortunately we don’t act that way. Let’s say a fictional person named Jack has offended you. Our normal response is something like, “I’m really angry with Jack because of what he said.” But if we were to apply a truly Christian view of Jack we would say something like this instead, “I’m not at all happy with what Jack did, but I still love him as a brother.”
To see things as God sees them, as well as walk our own talk, we need to separate the person who is made in God’s image from the act which comes from that person’s fallen nature. This is not a new idea; James wrote about it 2,000 years ago when he wrote, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)
If you want transformation through the renewing of your mind you must see people as God’s creation who He made in His likeness. You must remember that when God made man it was the only creation that was “Very Good” not just “Good.” As Christians we need to love these people regardless of their performance because God loves them regardless of their performance.
That’s not to say when we perform badly we won’t suffer the consequences of that performance. If I steal a car and get caught I’m going to jail even though my wife and my God still love me. Hitler was pure evil by his choice and he rejected God and is in hell for doing so. But that doesn’t mean that God didn’t still love his creation and didn’t hurt over the choices that he made.
If you can understand loving a person regardless of their performance then you can actually start applying the command “Do not judge lest ye be judged.” If performance is no longer the measuring stick you use to view God’s creation then you simply judge God’s creation based on them being God’s creation, while at the same time not equating their personhood with their fallen actions.
During this time when the world is changing and many things Christians deem sin are being openly embraced in society we believers need to be able to do this more than ever. Yes, we must defend the faith and call sin sin, but we must never stop loving what God called very good and made in His own image.
Let me end by spinning this the other way; how would you feel if you were judged not by your performance but by the fact you were made in God’s image. How much pressure would that take off your shoulders to be perfect at home, work, at church, among family and friends, and even among strangers? What if you could live a life without other people’s judgment of your work, your personality, your quirks, your successes, your failings, and your sin? Wouldn’t that be amazing?
There is one who sees you that way right now – the Lord your God sees you as holy and righteous – a saint through the Blood of Christ. Think about glorifying Him by treating others the way He’s treated you…regardless of your performance.