Self-Justification or Christ (Some thoughts about abiding)

I had a cup of coffee a few nights ago with friend of mine, and we talked about all sorts of topics of interest to us. In the course of the conversation one of us brought up the topic of how we’ve changed as we’ve gotten older and how we regret some of the things we said and did when we were younger.

I have some of those same regrets. I’ve said and done some really hurtful things I wish I could take back. Of course, we can sometimes make amends, and sometimes we can’t.

Sometimes, we remember a situation and our behavior in a certain way, thinking we were acting much worse than we were actually perceived by others. A friend once told me that she had been carrying some guilt around for a couple of years because of how she had treated a certain friend at one of their last encounters. Years later, when she saw that friend again, she immediately apologized, only to be answered with a chuckle. Her friend had absolutely no recollection of the event in question, and reassured my friend that all was well. Life is like that isn’t it? We remember things in a certain way, but those memories aren’t consistent with how others view the same situation. Weird.

There is another side to this sort of regret, and it can be more destructive to our relationships. Age, maturity, and spiritual growth should come with a change in some of our viewpoints, opinions, and attitudes. I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “If you’re young and conservative, you don’t have a heart. If you’re old and liberal, you don’t have a brain.” Now, that’s a funny statement, and I’m not sure it’s completely accurate, but it does capture the notion that we should and do change with maturity. Or at least, maturity should soften our hard edges and wise us up a bit.

But for some of us, this wisdom and maturity brings with it a sort of embarrassment over who we used to be. Sometimes, at least for me, I feel as if I’m still struggling against that younger version of myself. Worse, I sometimes see that young me in others, and I don’t like him. I want to argue with him, and prove him wrong. I want to prove to myself that I’ve grown beyond that other version of me.

The problem of course is that what I dislike in that other person is what I dislike in myself, but they are not me. They never were, and they never will be. It is my own insecurity that makes me want to point out that person’s error. If I can do that, then I can demonstrate to myself that I’ve overcome my own past, and become master over my own inner-demons. How messed up is that?!

My security is not in what I can prove that I know, or how I can demonstrate to my own satisfaction how I’ve matured beyond what I used to be. That is just my own foolishness talking. No, my security is in what Christ has said about me. I am forgiven and accepted even though I’m a mess. The power of Christ works on me despite me. I’m glad for that.

The constant need for self-justification is poison to the soul, to relationships, and is completely unnecessary. We are secure in the eyes of the Father because of the action of the Son, and the sustenance provided by the Spirit. I want to learn to abide in that truth. I want to experience fully what it means to abide in Jesus. Don’t you? I’m no mind reader, but I think you probably do.