Christians Don’t Act Like That
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling . . . Philippians 2:12-13
I’ve occasionally been involved in conversations questioning the authenticity of another’s faith. He says he’s a Christian, but he doesn’t act like it. Usually, it’s been in reference to someone struggling with addiction. This person has shown up in church, claimed to follow Christ, but then relapsed repeatedly into self-destructive, criminal behavior. It would seem obvious that he’s not following God, and it seems reasonable to question his faith.
Such conversations have always made me a little uncomfortable for two reasons. First, I’m not God and I can’t judge the legitimacy of another’s faith. Everyone struggles with something. Second, I’ve been that person. I’ve been the one who people look at and say, He can’t be a Christian. Christians don’t act like that. I’ve believed in God my whole life, but I’ve struggled with some really self-destructive behaviors.
There’s a reason why we question such an individual’s faith. When we come to faith, we are supposed to begin this process of transformation from the old life to the new one. We’re not made instantly perfect, but we are meant to continually grow. In today’s passage, Paul said that we’re supposed to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We often view salvation as something that happened years ago on a specific day. Paul however, suggests that salvation is an ongoing process in which we must continually participate. If we’re saved, that reality should be obvious to others.
Looking back at my own life, I’d say there was a time when I had to figure out if I was a Christian or not. I’d believed in God as long as I can remember. I had to figure out however, if I was going to live a life of following him or me. If I’d have turned from God, I’d have proved that my so-called faith was a sham. In following God and continually working at growth and transformation, I’ve proven to myself that I’m working out an authentic salvation.
This is something we all must figure out for ourselves. Paul doesn’t tell us to point this verse at others, questioning their faith. This verse is meant for introspection. Has my faith led to any authentic change? Am I following God’s will, obeying him and loving my neighbors? Or, am I just living for myself? It’s always easy to judge those who’re obviously failing. Not all self-pursuits are so evident though. Today’s passage asks us to look inward, asking ourselves if we’re truly following God or simply living for ourselves.