Selling Soap and Grace
I was once a member of a
pyramid scheme multi-level marketing business ( which will remain unnamed, but rhymes with “Scamway” ), that had a number of little sayings to encourage new members to do what they had to do to succeed. One such saying was “Fake it until you make it!” In other words, act successful or put on the outward appearance of prosperity as a method of becoming successful.
In the end, I wasn’t successful at selling soap, and worse, the effort to appear successful drained off what little income I made.
It was a while after my MLM experience that I met Jesus: You would think that my journey as a new Christian would have been informed by my not-so-positive soap-selling experience, but I quickly got the message ( whether directly or more subliminally ) that, to be a Christian, I had to strive to look morally good – I had to act good, if I wanted to be good, and I had to be good to be acceptable to God. I had to fake it, until I make it.
I memorized the 10 commandments, read my Bible, I went to all the meetings, I volunteered to be the sound guy, janitor guy, computer guy… You name it, I was THAT guy.
Looking back at those early years as a new believer, I realize that not only did I fail to see that my life before Christ was governed by a lot of silly principals, made-up rules, and ineffective methods, but I willingly took those rules and methods into my new life and applied them there. “Fake it until you make it!”, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.”, “Work smarter, not harder.”
But 2020 Chris has grace for 1990s Chris – While I was diligent to bring in to my new life a lot of the baggage from my old life, I was also birthed into a Church culture that was very confused about nature of the Old and the New: the old man and the new creation, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, the old traditions and the new revelation. So throwing a little of the old man, a little Law, a little Grace, and little new creation into the blender and hitting “frappe” was the thing to do.
Much later, as a pastor, it was easier to accept that I needed to manage the image I presented. I was a leader, a role model, an example for new believers. There was a good deal of stated and unstated rules that required the pastor look good. Even in “being transparent”, I shared, not to be honestly vulnerable or humble, but to be an example of how to overcome and succeed.
It has been a while since I shed the identity of “vocational clergy”, since I had a true revelation of the grace embodied in Jesus, and I can honestly (well, I hope “honestly”) say that I have a long way to go if the goal is to be an example of “Christ-like” or a “good Christian” even. But I can also say I way more comfortable with that. Not that I am fine with sin in my life, but if you ask me what it takes to be like Jesus, I’m definitely NOT going to point at myself and say “watch this!” but I definitely WILL point at Jesus and say “Watch Him!”.