‘Useless’ Baby Christians

Like many of you, I suspect, I was raised in a well-meaning church community that consistently taught its youngest members to emulate the various heroes of the Bible. Are you timid? Well, then, just “Be more like King David!” Do you struggle to believe God’s promises? Simple: “We should all be more like Noah!” No matter the Sunday or the passage of Scripture being studied, it always seemed as if the answer for us youngsters was to buck up and follow the examples set before us in the pages of Scripture.

The primary problem with this Flannelgraph approach to understanding the Kingdom of God, of course, is that it places nearly all of the emphasis on individual choice and responsibility. “Conversion,” if one can even call it that, consists in gritting our teeth and saying, doing and believing those things that the Bible and our Sunday School teachers tell us is the right and proper thing for a Christian to say, do and believe. To over-simplify, “It’s all up to us, by golly!”

Can’t relate? For some more fun, please see:
In Praise of Flannelgraph” by John Fischer


Imagine my surprise, then, when I actually read 2 Samuel 11 for myself, start to finish. As I discovered first-hand that the very same David who had slain Goliath took for himself a woman who belonged to another man, had attempted to cover up the resulting pregnancy and – when all manner of trickery had failed – murdered one of his most loyal soldiers, I could hear the distant echo of some long-forgotten Sunday morning lesson: “We should all be more like King David!”

Really?

Thank God that Scripture is so honest and thorough in its portrayal of humankind! How burdensome the Christian life would be were we all left to pull ourselves up by our own moral bootstraps, so to speak. Our greatest hope is not that David was honored for his bravery in battling Goliath, as breathtaking as that is. No, our greatest hope is that God loved David enough to send Nathan the prophet to speak hard truth to David in his sin. It’s not David’s heroism but his repentance we need to pay attention to.  It is in those far-more-common moments of failure when we need David’s example as a blueprint for confronting our own sin.

The ministries that my wife and I serve at The Crossing are a huge blessing (primarily to us!) in that the folks we come into contact with have a strong need to shake off any remaining human-centered understanding of the gospel and repent of the idea that salvation is primarily about them, rather than about what God has given us in Christ. Over the past few years, we have commonly handed out a list of moral failures of individuals considered heroes and heroines of the Bible, the point being not to trash anyone’s reputation, but to focus on how patiently our great God works with each of us after we have really blown it.

Many people who come to Christ later in life – myself included – struggle long and hard under the false belief that God is unable to use their lives for anything productive, given all the moral failures of their past. This is based largely on the accusing lies of the enemy, the devil, who very much wishes to persuade new believers that had they wanted to be used greatly by God, they needed to bring an impressive resume of moral achievements to His desk to even be considered for service. It’s almost as if Satan himself whispers in the new Christian’s ear that he or she must have the following attributes:

  • Virgin from birth, at least until the wedding night. (Zero sexual immorality!)
  • Never got drunk or used illegal drugs. (Not even once.)
  • Married his or her high school sweetheart; never dated anyone else or cared to.
  • Went straight into seminary from college graduation.
    • Entered occupational Christian ministry upon graduation.
  • Always happy. Never downbeat.
  • White picket fence, immaculate house in the suburbs.
  • Perfect kids, perfect cars, perfect dog.
  • No tattoos, unconventional piercings or wild (let alone dyed) hairstyles.
  • Well-liked and respected in the community.
  • Etc. etc. etc.

When one plays it back this way, the lies contained in this false list of qualifications to be truly loved by God seem absurd, and yet new believers with a checkered past will often think of themselves as “compromised for service” from the very beginning. One of the things I like to say to others who spend their days relentlessly flogging themselves for past sins is: “Hey, if God can use me in Christian service, he can for sure use you!”

But for those who yet doubt that God might use them to forward His Kingdom, it might help to keep this list of “heroes” and Scripture references handy. How encouraging to consistently remind ourselves that God is so loving that He absolutely prefers to use broken people to accomplish His mighty deeds!

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