“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” – Romans 8:1 (NIV)
My father quoted this verse to me years ago as he and my Mum stood over me and prayed for me regarding an ongoing struggle I had which at that time felt like it was endangering my service to God.*
Undoubtedly, this is a comforting verse, yet the reality of it all is that while you’re a Christian and living here on Earth, you are seldom, if ever, truly free from condemnation.
Yes, God has most certainly forgiven you, but there are still plenty of other ways in which you will inevitably continue to feel unworthy.
My own thoughts and perception of myself and where I stand spiritually is one such source of condemnation. Perhaps logic is to blame. The more I try to reason how guilty I am and how tarnished my spiritual records must be, the worse I feel.
Then, there are my fellow believers. Perhaps they do it while unaware of the deeper consequences of their actions.
For example, I often find myself on the receiving end of a judgmental glance or outpouring of a strongly entrenched spiritual perspective.
I recall vividly being promptly admonished by older Christian women just because they felt my dress was a tad too short or perceived to be too revealing. Well, it’s not like they badgered me about it, but just the way they looked at me while I was wearing the said dress was usually enough to make me feel like I was a convicted felon.
They would follow that up with the action of coming up gently beside you, and then leaning in close to whisper to me their opinion of what I had previously thought of as a pretty outfit.
During another past incident in my life, someone to whom I had been reporting to in my line of spiritual service apparently disapproved of a certain something that I did with my boyfriend (now husband). No Biblical code of conduct had been explicitly broken, I can assure you, but in this person’s eyes, my actions could only result in a very narrow set of outcomes.
It would have been fine had he confronted me about his concerns so we could sort things out. But that is not what he did. He raised his objections to another leader instead. How considerate.
I only learned about his opinion of my actions through third party sources, and this revelation, coupled by the fact that I was now aware that many others may also hold the same view as he did about me, led me to feel demotivated about serving and ultimately, unworthy of the responsibilities I had been carrying at that time (I too was a leader in some capacity back then and hence, every move I made is interpreted as setting an example to others under my care who were usually younger in age and spiritual maturity).
So, as you can see, there are all this ongoing assaults to your confidence and spiritual dignity throughout your Christian walk.
On the one hand, I guess we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be influenced by negative thinking or the criticisms of others and concentrate our energies instead on charting our life’s course in a manner that brings glory to God, but you cannot deny that these things do affect us.
Well, they it certainly had impacted me and I have felt discouraged so many times from being a Christian leader, not to mention just being an ordinary believer.
It comes to a point sometimes that I wonder is it worth trying to be a good Christian, to follow in the path of holiness that is demanded of by our Father in heaven. After all, it’s inevitable that we fail – whether in conforming to our own standards, that of the church, or even what is written of in the Bible.
Truly, I often arrive at a similar conclusion to the writer of Ecclesiastes that everything I do for the sake of my faith feels more or less “meaningless”.
So what is it that keeps me trudging forward? I’m not sure. I’m still here, still doing my best, but I cannot shake the nagging feeling that I will inevitably always come up short.
* In actual fact, it didn’t really jeopardise much of anything in the end, and I have since comes to terms with the issue concerned and accept how it has shaped my spiritual walk and personal character.