While this isn’t the most cheerful of titles, it should give us some perspective. Every other human being we meet today will be imperfect. And, everyone who meets us today will encounter someone who is imperfect. Once we get used to this, it might make our lives – and theirs – a lot easier.
This isn’t to suggest that we should give up on relationships, or walk around in a permanent paranoid state. That’s no way to live. It’s just a reminder that our hope shouldn’t be in mere people. Only one human being didn’t fail those who counted on Him, and He was also God at the same time. Everyone else…is not God.
Take a look at this passage about Jesus:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16 NASB
(See also Hebrews 7:26-28.)
While we probably already knew that Jesus was the only human to live without sinning, we can slip into the trap of treating other people like we expect them to be perfect. For instance:
- We may start to accept everything a favorite pastor says without checking it against the Bible. Sometimes, it’s just easier to listen, rather than to evaluate what we hear.
- We may believe whatever is told to us from our preferred media source. After all, many insist that anything that contradicts their points of view is clearly made up.
- We may expect our friends to never let us down. Somehow, even knowing our own weaknesses, we hold others to a higher standard.
- We may become frustrated when our spouse (or boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.) forgets something we said. After all, shouldn’t they hang on our every word? And, let’s not get started on why they can’t figure out what we want without us telling them! Shouldn’t they just “know”?
- We may expect children to have accumulated the knowledge and wisdom of adults. After telling them to pick up the dirty bowls in the living room thousands of times (ok, maybe a couple dozen times), we expect that they will somehow see things the way we do – worrying about dishes rather than spending time with others.
Obviously, these are [a little] tongue-in-cheek. If you’ve ever spent any significant amount of time with people before, though, you have learned that these self-imposed traps are just setting us up for disappointment.
Still, we are shocked when people of faith struggle with sin. We are appalled when we find out that something we were told wasn’t true (whether it was an outright lie, an urban legend, or a misunderstanding). We are surprised when someone – who we had grown accustomed to trusting – stumbles.
But, in the end, can we blame anyone but ourselves? We know that everybody makes mistakes. It’s no surprise that even those trying to live their life in line with God’s guidance still struggle with temptations. (Read Romans 3:21-26, focusing on verse 23.)
I was caught off-guard when I was told once that Jesus likely made mistakes when He was on earth. Even though He didn’t sin, the other person suggested that Jesus may have cut wood to the wrong length in Joseph’s carpenter shop, for instance. I’m paraphrasing from memory, here, and haven’t exactly decided how I feel about this proposal, but think about that possibility for a bit…
Still, as we put people on higher and higher pedestals, and expect them to fill more and more of our needs, we are becoming unfair to them, since our disappointment in their weaknesses will prove to be of our own doing. We may further start to expect these people to provide for us – whether through teaching, emotional fulfillment, or meeting other needs that we have – and forget that they are human beings who need help, too.
Instead, let us guard our hearts, and remember that none of us have lived up to perfect standards. I encourage us all – including myself – to look at others more carefully this week, and to consider what we receive from them as merely a transfer of the grace that God originally and ultimately provides. As fellow messengers of God’s love to others, we can then begin to relate to everyone as equals – for better or for worse.
Here are a few ideas to get that process started:
- Don’t put people on a pedestal reserved for God.
- Look at what God has granted others, and appreciate how their contributions and your own both serve His goals.
- Be more patient and more understanding with those of all ages, backgrounds, and roles.
- Offer your own support to those who seem like they have it all together.
- Trust, but verify.
- Lead discussions by admitting your own challenges, and being willing to help in others’ difficulties.
- See other people as equals – neither better nor worse than you – in the grand picture of how we – as fallen people – compare to God.
And, if you see me walking by someday, I pray that we will each extend this courtesy to the other – fellow messengers for the same God.
See also this article (by another author) that I found a few months after posting the one above: The Dangers of Being Easily Influenced (By Really Good People).