Posted by: jakinnan | December 15, 2012

The Trap of Integrity


Let me tell you, few things can mess you up as badly as trying to do your best. For the tender heart, the earnest heart, it is so discouraging to give all you have trying to do what you think Jesus would have you do, and find yourself falling short, sabotaging your own efforts at every turn. Discouragement and shame settle in like a long Seattle rain.

And this is what most Christians experience as the Christian life. Try harder; feel worse.

I spoke of cunning traps that replace the simple priority of loving Jesus. Here is a very surprising one—the trap of integrity. What I mean by this is when our attention turns to maintaining personal righteousness. This seems noble and right. Jesus told us to keep his commands. But this can be a trap because most Christians interpret this as “Try harder; do your best.”

I find myself slipping back into this weekly. A handful of symptoms tip me off. Exhaustion, for one. I’ll just find myself wrung out again. Or an unnamed internal distress; my insides all twisted up. Discouragement, that old nagging cloud of “I’m totally blowing it” back over me. Irritation with needy people. These symptoms—and a host of others—are the collateral damage that results from trying my best. They let me know I’ve fallen back to thinking that to love Jesus is to give my very best in living for him. And this is a sticky business. Because on the one hand, that’s true—to love him is to obey. But out of what resources? From what fountain of inner strength?But didn’t Jesus warn, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)? The good news is this—you were never meant to imitate Christ.

His revolution is not self-transformation, but his transformation of us, from the inside out, as we receive his life and allow him to live through us. Vine, branch. Anything else is madness.

-John Eldredge, Beautiful Outlaw, 229, 230

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