In any typical grocery store you will find a clearance section with an assortment of items which all have one thing in common; they’re flawed. They might be nearing their expiration date or have a dent, a scratch a ding etc. They come with a label on them, “As Is” There is no returning them, no exchanges, you simply accept the item for what it is.
In any community of people, you’ll find the same thing. Imperfection is in many ways a synonym for being human; created in God’s image, yet we are sheep that have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). In the comparison games that we too often play, some people might seem less flawed than you or maybe you don’t see anything wrong with them at all, but once you get past the surface of the polite façade we all put on for each other; the masks we wear to make ourselves look better, smarter, kinder etc. there are flaws to be found. The Bible puts it this way, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
So, how are you flawed? Do you have any quirks, any obsessions, any bad habits? Do you do something that irritates other people? It’s a rhetorical question and the answer is of course you do! I do too. We all do. Odds are you know both your own flaws and the flaws of many others around you very well.
We have a choice in what we can do with that knowledge. We could use it to support one another, cover each other’s weaknesses and lift one another up, but far too often our sinful hearts use this insight for more diabolical schemes; We have a tendency to hurt one another. We know how to one-up each other, how to make arguments very personal and bitter.
Community, life together with each other is supposed to reflect the trinity itself; a symbiotic perfect relationship with one another, but often we fall so short.
“It is not good for man to be alone” was one of the very first observations God has about His creation. You and I were designed for relationships and we will find someone or something, good or bad to connect with. For some of us it will be video games, for others it’s sports. Somehow, someway, we will find a way to connect.
I recently saw a movie called Passengers. In the movie, thousands of people are aboard a spaceship headed for a new planet. Through a series of events, one passenger wakes up earlier than they were supposed to and finds himself completely alone on the ship (sans an android which eventually he finds lacks the human qualities and emotional connection he desires). He has woken up so early that he will end up dying before the ship arrives at the new planet. After living alone for a couple of years, he decides he can’t take it anymore, he is a human and humans need interaction with other humans. He ends up waking up another passenger aboard the ship, deciding her fate for her for the sake of not being alone.
You probably won’t ever find yourself in this situation, but you’ll always find yourself longing for other people to share life with. So how can we have these relationships we were meant to be in when it seems like we always end up getting hurt or hurting someone else?
In the Hebrew language there is a word for these kind of connected relationships we were designed to have. It’s the word Shalom. It’s when everything and everyone is at peace. This is how Paul describes what Jesus did for humanity’s relationship with God “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace (Shalom) with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5)
It’s this same grace and forgiveness that we need to extend to each other. Jesus modeled it for us when the Pharisees caught a woman in adultery.
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8)
We must share this same grace because everyone comes “As is” None of us are righteous enough to be throwing any stones and at the end of the day we just plain need each other. Jesus knew we came “As is” Paul continues, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5)
May we spread more grace and throw less stones in the upcoming year.