The Weight of Expectations
I don’t follow UFC (that’s Ultimate Fighting Championship) fights like I used to. Back in the day when Royce Gracie was introducing the world to the wonders of Brazilian Jujitsu, my whole family would get together to watch the fights. I also remember the crazy hype when Vitor Belfort won a fight in the octagon at 19. His punches were insane. As I was strolling through the channels with my husband on Saturday night, I got sucked into the pre-fight interviews for UFC 152. Belfort was trying to make a comeback in his scheduled match with light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones.
Maybe you’ve heard of Jones. About a year and a half ago, he made the news on the day of his UFC 128 match. He went with his coaches to a park in New Jersey to meditate for a while before the fight, and upon arriving noticed a distressed older couple. They had just been robbed, and the thief ran off with the GPS from their car. Jones and his coaches ran down the thief and held him until the police arrived. It makes me laugh to think of the timing of this thug, an elderly couple, and a UFC fighter in the park all at once. Anyway, Jones became an instant hero. Between this awesome display of valor and his winning record, it seemed he could do no wrong. He became the first UFC fighter to get an international sponsorship with Nike. As my daughter Zaidee says, “Kablamo!”
And then things went a little sour. Dan Henderson had to pull out of his anticipated fight with Jones in UFC 152 just nine days before due to an injury. Jones was then asked to fight a challenging opponent, Chael Sonnen. He declined the fight. I really don’t blame him. He had been training to fight Henderson. If he was going to fight his professional best against Sonnen, he would need to train amply for that. The fans were not happy. Neither was UFC president, Dana White, who then had to cancel the whole event. It wasn’t pretty.
Next there came the news of a DWI after Jones crashed his Bentley into a pole. His mom bailed him out of jail. Not good.
During the pre-fight interview Joe Rogan talked with Jones about his tarnished reputation. He went from golden boy to being booed at the weigh-in for his fight against Belfort. Jones said something that shocked me. He said that he wanted to be a good example for his fans, being in the position that he is in. But he said that it is a relief for people not to like him as much now. Jones said that now people know that he’s not perfect, and he emphasized the truth of this. He said that it was freeing for him, and he can focus on doing his job.
That really got me thinking about the weight of expectations on a Christian. When unbelievers hear that you are a Christian, they immediately begin to look for the holes in your character. This is why the gospel message is so important. If our faith is in our own morality, we are going to crumble under the microscope of the public eye. And yet, we should not lower our expectations.
Jon Jones was relieved that the public now recognizes he is not perfect. And he surely is no example of who we should aspire to be. There was only one Man who was ever perfect. And yet, this is the expectation of every Christian.
We are right to look for perfection; we long for perfection. Jesus Christ lived a perfectly righteous life. He was able to not only bear the weight of our Father’s expectations, but also the full encumbrance of our sin. Imagine that—the crushing weight of our sin on the shoulders of one Man. Who could bear it? Only our holy God. And since our sin is so reprehensible, every bit of it, Christ also bore the full wrath of God in our place. He voluntarily left his blissful communion with the Father to be cursed for our sin. In exchange, we are given his righteousness.
No, I am not perfect, but that is the expectation. My faith is in Christ’s perfect work on my behalf. He is actually making me holy. Therefore, I live in light of the person I am becoming. Right now there is a bit of a wrestling match between the flesh and the Spirit. Like Paul, I do things that I don’t want to do, and don’t do things that I do want to do. But I can be vulnerable to those who may be watching, confessing and repenting of my sin, because I know that I am a work in progress. There is only one Person to look to for salvation, for he is God and there is no other (Isa. 45:22). This message frees me to do my work, knowing that Christ will bless my efforts.