April 14th, 2023

3 John 1:11 CSB – Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to my walk with Christ. I have these thoughts that seem so contrary to the thoughts that the Bible says I should have. If someone cuts me off in traffic, sometimes the thought is “What a jerk!”, and I have to stop, reprimand myself, and ask God to help me to not react that way. Sometimes I’ll see a situation where a person made some bad choices and make an internal snap judgment about that person which doesn’t give that person any grace at all. I have to again stop, reprimand myself, and ask God to change my attitude.

I think in the verse above, God makes a distinction between a thought and an action. It says “do not imitate what is evil, but what is good”. And then the verse goes on to equate the imitation of a good thing with the actual act of doing a good thing. While yes, we must keep firm control of our thoughts, as long as we aren’t acting on that impulse, we’re not imitating evil. If I were to have screamed out loud “What a jerk!” to the person that cut me off, well, that’s an imitation of evil, which based on the earlier logic, we can equate to doing evil. By keeping my mouth shut and correcting myself, I imitated good (even though my inner monologue didn’t do a good thing) and therefore did good. The same goes for making a snap judgment about the person in the bad situation. If I had gone to that person and made them feel even worse for the choices that they made, or started talking about that person’s poor choices to other people who were not involved in the situation, that would have been an imitation of evil, and hence doing evil. However, since I kept my opinions to myself and reprimanded my thoughts, I did an imitation of good and actually did good.

I say all of that to say this. I think God gives us grace in certain ways to account for our failings as fallen humans. He asks us to imitate good, even if we feel like our thoughts and attitudes aren’t good, because by imitating good, we are doing good. Other people can’t hear our thoughts, and in the context of how an action by us is received by others, they will only ever see the act. I think this should help to address those feelings that you aren’t good enough for Christ because of how your inner self responds to things. So don’t be so hard on yourself.  Yes, there is a HUGE gap between our saved nature and the standard of Christ, but God knows this, accounts for it, and lets us know (in scripture) that he is working on shaping us in a way that those shortcomings will be removed. Sanctification is a process. As we grow closer to Christ, those poor snap reactions that we have will be removed and we’ll be filled with snap reactions of care, empathy, and love.