Years ago, I wrote a very long poem about the importance of honesty. I’d become a Christian and was impressed by Jesus who said, “I am the way and the truth. . .” because my memories still hurt of people who had lied to me.
Later, this conviction about honesty included integrity, not just in others, but in myself. Being the same person on the outside as I am on the inside is high on my priority list. However, I realize the subtlety of trying to make a good impression, of hiding how I really feel for fear people will reject me, even the subtlety of not knowing how I genuinely think and how those elusive thoughts and feelings can affect my behavior.
Jesus knows. It seems to me that this is the biggest reason for a question He asked His disciples. He had just spoken to people who seemed to follow Him regarding their depth of commitment. He included a figure of speech about ‘eating my flesh’ and ‘drinking my blood’ which they took literally and were offended, even repulsed.
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’” (John 6:66–67)
Jesus puts similar questions to me, particularly when I am tired, discouraged with my spiritual progress, frustrated with not seeing answers to prayer, or simply fed up with the lack of reward in following Him. Sometimes I have felt like turning back also.
Christian history tells of some who seemed to be disciples of Christ, but they did not stick with it. I know a few of them personally. Does this mean they once believed and were saved only to lose their faith and salvation? I don’t think so. They started out well but became offended at the cost, then left. Of them, the Bible says:
“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:18–19)
The theme of 1 John is how to identify true, genuine faith. The description includes love for other Christians and obedience to Christ, but also that endurance lacks in some who follow for a while then fall away. They are “of us” in the first place, and as soon as following Jesus became uncomfortable or too costly, much like those Jesus spoke of in John 6, they turn back also.
In His love for me, every now and then there is ‘check-up’ time. Jesus puts questions to me, not necessarily in these words, but in circumstances, in emotions, in the way I view the life I now have. Is it too hard? Am I tired of giving up what I want to serve others? Are the trials of life no longer a challenge but a pain that seems to be avoidable if I just go my own way?
When I was saved, God restored my power of choice. Without the Holy Spirit, I could not choose to be godly; my only option was sin. After Christ came into my life, His power and presence enable me to say yes to Him and no to sin. These trials and that question really ask if I am willing to keep going on with Him. Love is always about choice and He wants me to follow Him with a willing heart, not because it makes me look good, or is comfortable, or is the ‘thing to do’ or for any other reason except that I love Him.
When a new Christian, I was not so much aware of my own weaknesses and inabilities as I am now. Back then, I could imagine running my own life and being free from the trials of being a Christian. Now, I have to admire the answer Peter gave Jesus. There are no other options:
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:68–69)
The integrity part is admitting the reluctance, those thoughts of running away, the fatigue of following. In all other fields, a ‘perfect’ example or model is to me at first an inspiration, but soon turns into a hopelessly discouraging and unreachable goal. The people who pray with King James English silence me. Those who win every soul they speak to (or claim they do) make me feel like quitting. Those whose teaching methods seem flawless dampen my enthusiasm to share Christ with His people. But someone with integrity enough to admit their fears, failures, and sense of weakness give me a desire to rely on Christ and to give them a hug. If that is the result of their honesty in me, then my honesty to others becomes far more of an important issue than ever.
Jesus, don’t get me wrong. Your perfect example does not discourage me because I know that You are not deceptive or self-deceived in any way; You are sinless and without flaw. Not only that, Your way is not merely to imitate You. Instead, You come into my life and give me Yourself so that I have what I need to persist, to carry on when living for You becomes difficult. Thank You for saving me. Thank You for continuing to save me. Thank You for holding on to me, even when I feel like letting go.