We all have standards (and expectations) – standards that we try to live by and standards that we want others to live by. When I became a Christian at the age of 17 I quickly learnt the standards that were expected of me from other Christians. Those standards were: serve in church, read your bible everyday, don’t get drunk, don’t have sex outside of marriage, be a Calvinist, be a complimentarian, go to prayer meetings and make sure you root out your idols everyday.
Some of these are very cultural, I learnt this when I went to Peru and found that the standards of Christians there were very different. (In each culture they believe they are doing things biblically)
This has led me to think about this quite a bit recently. I realised that trying to live up to other people standards is crippling and leads to a path of guilt and feeling terrible. Why? Because I can’t live up to anyone’s standards or rules for living, I can’t tick anyone’s boxes and they can’t tick mine. To be honest I can’t even live up to my own standards! (There is a difference between standards I impose on people and a contract you have with work, like with relay there is a standard of you will do a study response and hand it in on time and I expect that, yet even in that there must be grace.)
In Tim Kellers wonderful booklet “The freedom of self-forgetfulness”, he says:
“I cannot live up to my parents standards – and that makes me feel terrible. I cannot live up to your standards – and that makes me feel terrible…Perhaps the solution is to set my own standards? But I cannot keep them either”
There is often a great feeling of guilt or shame when we don’t live up to someone’s standards – we feel like they are disappointed with us, they expected us to perform better and we haven’t and we haven’t ticked their boxes and we start feeling like a bad Christian, a second rate Christian compared to them. As I think about this and can resonate with this which I think it leads me to two things:
1. A word to leaders – what standards are you setting? The standards you set may lead people to death. Living under rules leads to a great burden. What about speaking more of Christ and showering your followers/sheep with the living water of Christ? Let your people enjoy the freedom of grace that Christ gives us. This makes me think how I will mentor my relays next year and students – will I set standards that causes death? Or give great freedom of grace with the overflowing living water of Christ. Speak more of Him and hearts will be changed and warmed.
2. A word to our guilty hearts – This feeling of trying to live up to people’s standards or your own standards will lead to death and brokenness. But Tim Keller says that there is a better way:
“Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?… The moment we believe, God says “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”
Look at that! In Jesus we don’t have to perform – Jesus gave us the verdict and we didn’t lift a finger to perform. Our identity isn’t bundled up in how we live, or how we perform or how we live up to the standards of our church leaders, boss, friends, spouses and ourselves. Because you won’t ever live up to those expectations and we are not meant to. Our identity is wrapped up and clothed in Christ! There is no guilt in him. All that we may do in church, in our relationships, at work must come out of a love of Christ and knowing how much we are loved by the Father.
Reading my bible can’t come from the standards of “you should read it every day” but it should come out of a joy and love of wanting to know more of Jesus.
Serving in church shouldn’t come out of bullying or feeling guilty that you aren’t doing enough, but it should come out of a love for Christ and a love for those that are in him to see that they drink deeply from the springs of eternal life.
Evangelism shouldnt come out of fear of hell, guilty remarks of “this is what Christians should do” or bullying, but it should come out of a love for Christ and a joy in sharing the one you love with others in whichever style you want to.
If those areas are a struggle (and they always are for me) and I feel guilty then I need to remind my heart of Christ and sit at his feet, drink from his living waters and enjoy him which may take longer then people wish or I wish, but it depends on our hearts and how broken we have felt from these things. I really believe in time as we sit and enjoy Christ we will thirst for him in his word, we will outwardly pour love on those around us and in church and we will naturally speak of the one who binds broken hearts.
Would love to read your comments:
– Has living up to other people’s standards caused you guilt and heartache?
– How have you overcome that?
– Does that challenge you with how you set your own standards and standards for other people to follow?