Let’s suppose that for just one day the Lord chose to make a documentary about you—“A Day in the Life of an Ordinary Christian.” For a single day your every move was recorded and your every word transcribed. For a single day even your thoughts were externalized and written down. A camera crew was beside your bed when you awoke, they sat with you at breakfast, and stayed at your side through your duties at work and at home. They held boom mics above your head as you led your family in devotions, trailed along behind when you went to your midweek service or small group, watched you sing your children to sleep, and bid farewell only when you had returned to bed, turned out the lights, and fallen into a deep slumber.
You would, of course, be on your best behavior and make it one of the best and godliest days you had ever lived. Even without fakery or hypocrisy, you would put your best foot forward and attempt to display your life at its purest. You would guard your thoughts and measure your words; you would take your duties seriously and do your utmost to display the heights of Christian character. You would be the best spouse you could be, the best parent you could be, the best friend and employee. You would attempt to model distinctly godly living.
And let’s suppose that somewhere in the distant reaches of time God chose to show you the results of that documentary. You had long since died and gone to heaven and begun to live in eternal bliss. And now God said, “Let’s show you that day in your life.” And so for hours you sat and watched yourself living life on this side of the grave. How would you feel about it? How would you evaluate the way you thought, the way you spoke, the way you lived?
You would, of course, understand that it was immeasurably far from perfect. You would see that despite your best efforts, your motives were still impure, your thoughts still imperfect, your actions still impacted by sin and still impaired by weakness. You would know you have already been forgiven for all the wrong you did and all the good you failed to do. So perhaps you would find yourself asking, “God, how could you have loved me when I was so sinful, when my best actions born from my best desires were still so poor?” What do you suppose the Lord would say?
I think the Lord might say something like this: “I have already forgiven you. And I know that you were living as well as you knew how to at that time. You were walking according to the light you had at that stage of your Christian life. You were making decisions on the basis of the knowledge you had gained so far and heeding your conscience as much as it had been informed to that point. Though you were still a sinner, though the old man was still active within, you were attempting to live well, attempting to live for the good of others and the glory of my name. So well done. I’m proud of you.”
The way you live today is, in all likelihood, better and purer than the way you lived ten years ago. The way you will live ten years from now is, in all likelihood, better and purer than the way you are living today. God’s work within us is progressive, not instant. Though we are never faultless when it comes to our sins, God may consider us blameless when we simply do not have the knowledge, do not have the maturity, do not have the sanctification that would allow us to live better and purer lives at that moment.
Of course, we must not content ourselves with immaturity or allow ourselves to dwell indefinitely in spiritual infancy. We must be committed to growth! Yet surely God does hold us equally responsible for unintentional ignorance as for knowledgeable defiance. Surely he is pleased with our best efforts, even when those efforts are so small and so weak. Surely he is proud of us when we live according to the light we have and serve with hearts of love, hearts of joy, hearts that long to magnify his name.
Inspired by the works of F.B. Meyer