My accountability group is phenomenal. I don’t know what I’d do without those guys. Some weeks we’re able to come together and celebrate a solid week. Sometimes we come in with sunken shoulders, hesitant to admit a colossal crash-and-burn. It is when the latter occurs that the guys and I are quick to intervene and stop a certain vicious cycle: self-deprecation. I hate seeing it. I shouldn’t be one to talk, since I do it myself whenever I stumble, but beating yourself up only makes the situation even more deplorable. There’s the unavoidable thought of “I did that…again,” as if we’re somehow surprised by the extent of our own fallibility.
Apparently, an expectation exists: we will eventually arrive at some level of maturity or self-control. We’ll finally “get it.” There’s no basis for this in the Bible…at least, not while our feet are still locked on this earth. John 9 reminds us about how faith is a journey. We see this in the blind man’s spiritual progress from the time Jesus heals him to the eventual reunion with Christ face to face. Nicodemus is also an example of faith as a journey throughout the entire Gospel of John. First, we see him as a man of the Pharisees, and the last time John mentions him, he is assisting Joseph in burying the body of the crucified Christ.
Why is this important? Well, there are two implications: one for how we view ourselves and the other for how we treat individuals. For ourselves, this means we should never feel like we’ve “arrived” at some sort of spiritual perfection; instead, we should humbly realize that we are forever in need of God’s patience and guidance. We also should not kick ourselves when doubt arises, especially when we consider that a lot of people stood face to face with Jesus Christ and still didn’t believe instantaneously (or ever). A little self-patience is in need of being employed. Likewise, in our interactions with others, we are to exhibit patience and communicate love and understanding to them when they falter or waver in their journey. Conversion is not a one-and-done sort of thing, despite what we may have grown up being taught. True change is a long ordeal—a process that requires somebody walking alongside you the entire way because as we all know too well, we aren’t very good at holding ourselves up on our own. To expect anyone to, at some point, obtain a firm grasp on avoiding sin and mistakes is to fill the shoes of the most obnoxious hypocrite.
You see, you and I are works in progress, and we always will be. I take Philippians 1:6 to mean just that, where Paul said, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Christ doesn’t expect us to have it figured out yet, so neither should we put that on others. We know what such grace looks like coming from God’s end of things, but what does it look like coming from us when it’s aimed and directed at other people?