I was recently asked if I considered myself to be a "good Christian."
My answer was, "Well, I'm a good person."
A good person obeys the law, loves her husband, encourages her friends, pays taxes and showers regularly. And yes, with the exception of the occasional (unreasonable) speed limit, I fit this mold.
Not that I deserve accolades for it, or anything. Being a good person is easy.
Stand up to give your seat to an elderly person on BART. Drop your change in the tip cup at Starbucks. Pay your late fees at the library. Tell your coworker how much you love her new scarf. It's easy.
And it has very little to do with being a Christian.
My Sunday school class recently spent the better part of an hour debating whether we could convey God's love to strangers by allowing extra cars to merge on 580 East during rush hour. Leaving the room, Jonathan rolled his eyes. Christianity as a lifestyle does, or should, trickle down into our everyday lives. Our mundane activities should marinate in Christian values and virtues before we go about doing them. But what does it really mean to be a "good Christian"?
I attend a Bible study on Monday nights which is rapidly becoming the most rejuvenating activity of my week. The women in this group encourage one another, pray constantly, laugh even more. And for the first time in a long time I'm willing to dip into what I believe to be the Word of God to find answers to such questions.
2 Peter 1:5-9
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Growing up should come with a manual. Things every girl should know. In this manual would be a way to remember all fifty state capitals, a guide on How to French Braid, a recommended reading list ranging from Austen to Whitman, affirmations to improve self-esteem, etc. I'm all about guides for life. It's the reason Rudyard Kipling's "If..." is my favorite poem of all time. (This poem would also appear in the manual.) That's why I was so thrilled to find such a guide tucked into 2 Peter.
How sweet of God to lay it out in a step-by-step.
Add to your faith goodness;
and to goodness knowledge;
and to knowledge self-control;
and to self-control perseverance;
and to perseverance godliness;
and to godliness brotherly-kindness;
and to brotherly-kindess love.
Faith first, of course; it's what establishes one as a Christian. But the journey continues. God wants us to lead enriched and enriching lives which begin in faith and end in Heaven. It takes growth, and growth is never easy. So, by giving us a standard, we can also see how we're growing.
I've read my Bible and gone to college and lived among my fellow man, so I'm feeling pretty good about knowledge . Life will continue to increase this part of my growth as both a person and as a Christian, something inevitable. This will involve fear and pain and lessons in humility. But in other ways, it will also be fun and I appreciate that it will come without my having to try too hard.
Then there's self-control , everyone's favorite. I have a steady job, a strong marriage, my health. But I'm prone to bouts with Hostess Cupcakes and People magazine. The worst part is that working on this aspect of life in general is as bad as having to do nightly sets of crunches!
Last year my resolution was to work out regularly and finish a draft of my novel. Neither of these things happened. The only thing in which I've persevered has been my desire to eventually persevere in other areas of my life. Good luck with the perseverance , Audrey.
It's been years since I've worn a WWJD bracelet. I stopped because it became trendy, which I felt was a gross misrepresentation of the original idea. Also, I had a good idea of what Jesus would do and what God wanted me to do without jewelry to remind me (an example of the aforementioned knowledge). Yet, whether I put this knowledge into practice daily is still undecided. Godliness . Kind of a tall order.
When it comes to kindess , I like to believe I'm well on my way. Interestingly I was kind to everyone except my brothers for years. Now I attempt kindess, at the very least, for everyone. Sometimes I forget to be kind to me. It's a vast responsibility to wield constant kindess. It is understandably at the top of the hierarchy.
Finally, love . It is "the greatest of these." The hardest of these. Love always. Love overflowing. Love overpowering. Love dictating words and actions and decisions. Again, this could take some time.
But I have dabbled in all of it. And God doesn't expect perfection from anyone except Himself. I am pleasing and worthy and accepted and complete in His sight just by being me. For the sake of the world, so that life is easier for some if not most, I can try to maneuver my way up the ladder towards being a "good Christian." And when I lose my way or get taken down a peg or two by society or my own shortcomings, I can always pop open the manual and choose the next step wisely.