EXCERPT FROM MENDED: OUT OF THE RAG PILE, BACK ON THE HANGER
BY DEBBIE WOODS (PUBLISHED BY HIGHERLIFE PUBLISHING)
Christ has set us free to live a free life.
So take your stand!
Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.
GALATIANS 5:1 (THE MESSAGE)
An older Christian woman, “Mrs. Righteous,” boldly proclaimed to anyone who would listen that she had not sinned (ever) since the day she was saved by Jesus Christ. She was a real peach! I had no dealings with her personally, but I did meet her sons, R. Righteous and D. Righteous. Legalistic and perfect themselves, they had not fallen far from the “Peach Tree.”
As a new babe in Christ, lost and profoundly damaged by sin and its severe consequences, I lived my life at the university trying to redeem myself: no drinking, no drugs, perfect class attendance, straight As. I was also attending a Bible study, where I met the Righteous Brothers. My safe place of unconditional love and forgiveness was quietly poisoned with judgment and condemnation.
Stupidly, I became a smoker in college. Not much; maybe a pack a week. Just something cool to do, right, like everyone else. Holy moly! This was intolerable to R. Righteous. Unthinkable. He was eager to tell me that I couldn’t have a Christian testimony if I smoked. I may not have been saved at all! I had to quit smoking, according to the gospel of R. Righteous.
Oh, precious Holy Spirit, newly flickering in me. In my confusion over the harsh criticism, I could hear the Holy Spirit whispering, “Never mind him; don’t believe that. We will get to the smoking later. You have many more serious issues than that! You are a mess, you are forgiven, and you are loved. There is nothing more to do. Let Me heal you.” I did not know then, but learned later, how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words, according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27). And mends.
I also came to understand that believers should have no self-conceit and should not provoke one another. We are to restore one another in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 5:26, 6:1). I have encountered other Righteous Brothers through the years, but I recognize and dismiss them now. If pressed, I say with a confident smile, “Yes, I sin differently than you.” That ends the conversation, for sure.
As for Mr. R. Righteous, he never smoked. Yet after thirty-plus years of marriage to a precious, long-suffering saint, he was revealed to be a serial adulterer and a deeply in debt online gambler, among other things. I took no pleasure in his fall. He just sins differently than me. Saddened by the damaged lives he left in his wake, I thank God I was not one of his victims. The patchwork of redemption and renewal Jesus stitched on my heart was held tight.
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults –
unless of course you want the same treatment.
That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.
It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face
And be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.
MATTHEW 7:1-3 (THE MESSAGE)
ON THE JOURNEY WITH YOU,