Imperfections Experienced by the Perfect
This is a post that I wrote for my own blog, but thought it would be relevant to this blog. I will return to my series on the Sanctification Gap next week.
The most painful interpersonal experience does not come from the expected, but from the unexpected. From the disappointment. A clear example comes to mind when considering anything that someone has practiced for a long time. The better the person becomes at the activity (such as a sport or game), the more each small mistake hurts. A tennis player who has years of experience, practice, and repetition of form who misses a simple shot becomes more frustrated than a player who has never held a racket before. In fact, missing a simple shot can be debilitating for the player, primarily because he knew better. This holds true in activities that are not sports, such as games or even chores.
But there is one area that it holds dangerously true. When someone has not committed a particular sin in a long time, and then they stumble in that one particular area once more, it becomes a stupid mistake. A silly, foolish mistake. That one sin may haunt the individual more than any of the other sins that they have not had victory over. Precisely because, as with the tennis player who missed the simple shot, they should know better.
This principle makes sin all the more dangerous and powerful. Sin is not only an offense against the omnipotent God, it is also an offense against our years of training. We have now lost something personal. We have now lost something tangible. Years of effort feel wasted in just a single moment. Once that moment is over, the process has to start again. No longer can you say (to yourself or to others) “I have not committed sin X in over 5 years.” The battle begins again, and it is often (if not always) an uphill battle.
The truth of interpersonal relationships, however, is that we are often hurt deepest by the people we rely on, and not the people who hurt us the most often. The bully from school may hurt you, but nothing stings like the biting tongue of a friend. The co-worker who never finishes the jobs he starts may cause you much frustration, but it shrivels in comparison to the team-member who you have always been able to count on, but who this time flakes out.
This also becomes true for the way we are perceived. As we become better people, as we become more perfect, we are more and more capable of hurting others. We become more capable of disappointing them, of hurting them, and of shattering their hearts more than any bully or undisciplined co-worker.
Jesus, then, must have had a hard life. Of course, this is almost a silly statement, for Jesus’ life was very clearly hard. His sufferings on the cross, his persecutions, the fact that he was rejected in his home town, and his betrayal that came from one of his closest friends all suggest that Jesus’ life was incredibly difficult. But Jesus, in his perfection, lived amongst and in contact with sin. Jesus, knowing the right choice, always chose correctly, but those around him did not. He had to watch each and every sinful decision someone made in his life, and suffer through all of them. Jesus watched Peter walk on the water, but fall due to a lack of faith. Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, and then watched him do it. Jesus watched Saul persecute the church. Jesus’ dealings with sin must have been infinitely more painful than our own, much like his righteousness is infinitely greater than our own.
With Jesus watching, I pray that I will not grieve Him. Fortunately, I know that I will never grieve Him more than He can bear. For this, we are a blessed people.