I have met many people who gave up trying to follow Our Lord simply because they felt that the effort was a hopeless cause. Mired and paralyzed in their imperfection and inconsistency, these folks grew tired of falling far short of Christ Himself. While I pray for them and often try to warmly invite them out of their funk, I realize that their folly is more common than one would like to admit.
Got That 80/20 Rule Wrong
I once read that salvation is 80% focusing on God and others and 20% focusing on oneself. Certainly, we all need to undergo faith and practice self-reflection to make sure we are constantly improving ourselves in the eyes of God. Just as surely, we all most spend most of our time focusing and serving God and others by putting our faith into action.
The problem with those who give up trying to follow Christ is that they have somehow flipped that 80/20 rule around. Whether they realize it or not, they are spending most of their time worrying about themselves and too little time loving and serving God and others. The greatest saints in history did not worry about themselves because they were too busy loving and caring for others and serving God. Thus, the first step to following Christ is to focus on Christ and others and worrying less about yourself.
Relentless Love over Relentless Perfection
People always hear how perfect Christ was–and with good reason. However, that perfection was born out of the fact that He is all God and all human, while we are not. Trying to be perfect as Christ is perfect is an exercise in frustration and failure. Trapped in a society and world which defines failure as failing to reach some stated, pinpoint target is a prescription for unhappiness.
When we look at Christ, do we see His perfection as a case of relentless love over relentless “perfection”? Our Lord is perfect because He loves perfectly. We are not perfect because as fallible and weak humans we can only love imperfectly. The key, however, is that our standard or target should not be perfect love but, rather, relentless love. Christ was able to love perfectly and relentlessly. As mere humans, we are called to stick to the relentless part and do our best with the perfect part.
Simply put, imperfect love relentlessly and sincerely pursued and practiced will get us to heaven a lot faster than so-called perfect love insincerely and occasionally practiced. Often, it is not how well we love but how much we try our best to love better that counts. God knows that we are not perfect, but He wants us to love so much that our imperfection does not matter.
If being a Christian means following Christ, then being a Christian entails falling as Christ did yet relentlessly getting up again to keep trying as Christ did. While Our Lord never made a mistake, He did fall under the weight of His cross a few times. We make plenty of mistakes and we fall under the weight of our crosses, real or created, all the time. The key distinction and goal to be sought here is that we must love God and others so relentlessly that getting up and trying over and over to love and serve others, regardless of our falls, is the difference that matters.
2017 Gabriel Garnica