I know, the question is jarring, even offensive. It is offensive partly because of the language. But the question is jarring and offensive for another reason: It strikes at a secret shame we’d all like to keep hidden, especially around our church friends. We’re just not as put together as we’d like to think; we’re certainly not as put together as we’d like our friends to think.
When we think like this, we betray a profound misunderstanding of the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus. When we say that Jesus came to save us from our sins, we’re not saying that trusting Jesus means that everything about us is made right in an instant. Sure, there are stories of wicked people being dramatically changed and released from their addictions, instantly and finally, the moment they trust in Christ. But those stories are exceptional, not typical. It is more typical for us, after we begin to follow Jesus, to struggle to see sin subside and godly virtue grow in our lives.
So if the Gospel doesn’t mean that trusting Jesus means everything changes in an instant, what does it mean? The Gospel means 1) that we don’t have to hide our sin but can confess to God and to one another and find grace instead of condemnation. 2) The Gospel also means that when we put our trust in Christ, God’s Spirit begins that long, slow, painstaking task of re-forming our hearts, remaking our lives to look more like Jesus. When we are afraid for people to know about our brokenness, we confuse our present state (messy but moving toward wholeness) with the finished product of our sanctification (gloriously and finally made whole).
Which brings us to the question that started all this: Why should our non-Christian friends want to follow Jesus when our lives are so broken? C. Michael Patton, a pastor and writer, has his own issues, which he recounts in remarkable candor at the beginning of the post. He goes on to tell us two reasons to go ahead and tell our non-Christian friends about Jesus, even out of our brokenness. His answer, in a nutshell, the Gospel is for broken people, and who better to speak of its glories and grace but a broken person?
Pastor of Discipleship
Patterson Park Church