Don’t look at me if you’re looking for perfection,
Don’t look at me, I will only let you down.
I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction,
But don’t look at me, no no no, don’t look at me,
Look at Him.
Stacie Orrico sang those words in her song “Don’t Look at Me”. It became a hit and was selected for the WOW 2001 album, an honor in the Christian contemporary music business. The message is considered one of humility and keeping God as the top priority. But is it Biblical? The question deserves attention, not because of a largely forgotten song, but because its message continues to be spread.
Catholics understand and acknowledge hypocrisy. They are frustrated with their fellow believers who don’t share their political ideology. Their hearts ache when prominent Catholic leaders stumble into public sin. When friends point to hateful, divisive, callous behavior done in the name of Christ as their reason for unbelief, Catholics respond, “Of course they sin. We all sin! But you can’t judge Christianity on the merits of humanity. You have to look to the goodness of God!” Statements like these aren’t inaccurate, but they are problematic for two main reasons.
First, unbelievers may hear these statements in a way that was not intended. A subtext of, “You foolish person, how silly to use only what you see and hear to make a judgement!” may cause offense. When unbelievers judge Christianity on the merits of humanity, they are being very reasonable. One who has not encountered God will have a hard time recognizing His goodness in the abstract. Christ commanded, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matt. 5:16). If God cannot be seen in Christian friends, where else would unbelievers look?
Second, dismissing the reality of our own sinfulness cheapens Christ’s sacrifice for us. Tone of voice makes the difference between owning our sin and brushing it off. If we fail to take our own sin seriously and make a firm purpose of amendment, we treat our salvation as something we deserve, something to take for granted. If we appear to make light of sin, those who find sinful behavior abhorrent will be turned away from us, too.
In contrast, St. Paul tells the church in Corinth, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you” (1 Cor. 11:1). St. Paul became a living embodiment of the Gospel. He didn’t spend his time apologizing for the failings of Christians around him (and there were many). He poured out his life to be an authentic witness so that others - through imitation of him - would imitate Christ. When problems arose within the Church, St. Paul would rebuke leaders directly. Even when sins were egregious, however, his primary focus remained positive.
“Be imitators of me.” Stop making excuses. Ask God to pour forth His grace and shine in you. If friends are seeking God, be a place where they can find Him.