Romans 7:18 – I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (NIV)
While driving to work one morning, I was listening to a preacher on the radio. He said something like, "It's a lot easier to deal with God than it is to deal with God's people." I thought about that for a moment and then agreed. Faith would be a lot easier if we had to relate only to God. It's only when we begin to share our faith, our beliefs, and our opinions with other people that problems arise.
I guess this is also what Paul was getting at when he confessed his mistakes and recognized that he was still a sinful person. Even though he had a dramatic and dynamic conversion experience, Paul still thought, said, and did things that were evil. He battled with his sinful nature time and time again, hoping to overcome his habitual mistakes. But, as Paul points out, what he ended up doing was the very thing he wanted to avoid.
From the outside, churches are supposed to be full of people who always get along, live in peace, and support one another. Every church that I know promotes itself as a friendly place where fellowship, fun, and faith are experienced. But the reality is that churches are full of people, from the preacher in the pulpit to the person in the pew, who themselves have sinful natures. It's hard to get along all of the time, and it takes a great deal of patience and perseverance. Those churches that are growing seem to know how to celebrate the good times, whilst enduring the bad times.
There's no such thing as a perfect Christian, pastor, or church. As the radio preacher said, "It's a lot easier to deal with God than it is to deal with God's people." If we want perfection, we are never going to find it on earth. But if we learn to accept our imperfections, we'll discover humility and contentment, tolerance and satisfaction.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Paul was one of Your greatest apostles and a giant amongst preachers of the Christian faith, and yet he had trouble with sin. His honesty about his battles with good and evil strangely gives us hope. We confess that we are not so good either and that we constantly fall short of Your standards. Forgive us when we surrender to temptation, and restore us by Your grace. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.