Do you have a difficult time receiving admiration? Downplaying seems humble, but you have undercut a compliment. Saying thank you at times feels seems like we expected it. Part of the tension for us comes from how we view ourselves. Many of us have filled our minds with our sharp critiques. Hearing admiration from another halts the thoughts of ourselves.
We use self-deprecating humor. Our ability to laugh at ourselves has an ounce of authenticity, but for many it acts as a defense mechanism. If I can put myself down before others, then they will not. It reveals how uncomfortable we are in our skin.
For some us, we live every day with the constant bombardment of knowing that we do not add up. Our imperfections gnaw at us. Rather than seeing the beauty and grace of the Gospel, we have the partial view of over recognizing our brokenness.
Paul in Ephesians 1:15-23 prayers over the readers. He calls them saints. Not a word just reserved for the spiritual giants or charismatic leaders, but for the ordinary people. Eugene Peterson in Practicing Resurrection says this about the passage:
If someone is taken by surprise by something admirable that we do and that person says, “You’re a saint,” our automatic response is “I’m no saint.” We protest, “If you knew me you would never say that.” But Paul is not deterred. “Yes, you are. Pay attention to what I am saying. I want to give you a new word for yourself, a word that defines you primarily in terms of who God is for you and God is doing in your life, a person who is growing up in Christ, a person who cannot be accurately identified apart from God’s intents and persistent attention: saint.” And so we do pay attention. Saint. Holy (pg. 78)
The Gospel in us declares, “You are a saint.” Not of the virtue of what you have done, but of what Christ has done for you. Misunderstanding the Gospel can result from not moving from seeing our brokenness to receiving Christ’s wholeness.
All of us have faults and foibles. You and I have a first-hand view of our areas of growth. When someone points out any goodness in you remember God calls you saint. Those words of affirmation point to the tangible presence of Christ in you. Rather than protesting it, let us realize how the Gospel changes our lives.
Sainthood moves from just seeing ourselves to seeing others. The grace we have received from Christ in our lives allows us to see His grace at work in others. Being a saint has nothing to do with us, but has everything to do with Christ with us.
In the midst of knowing the reality of our thoughts and actions, we may have come to believe the lie, “I’m no saint.” Paul reminds us of the Gospel at work in us, which Jesus calls us saint.
Photo credit by Chris Lawton.