Maybe it comes with age…but for some time now I’ve tried to better weigh my words as a Bible teacher. I’m aware that we can’t always qualify our words…in the interest of time or because of circumstances we are not always free to do so. But…whenever we can, I’m leaning toward the idea that we should. For instance, one day a young man named Joseph left home on an errand from his father. He had no idea that it would be twenty-two years before he would see his father again. In a few brief sentences I may talk of that young man of faith…of his dreams…of how he held on to them and to right-living when no one was watching. I may rush to the happy scene of re-union with his father and show how his dreams were all fulfilled. And all of that is true. But it’s not the whole truth, is it? Twenty-two years are made up of 8030 days that Joseph had to get through…away from home, sold as a slave, wondering why his brothers didn’t end their cruel joke and then wondering why his father didn’t come looking for him, life as a slave, wrongfully accused, life as a prisoner, thinking about how far he seemed from his dreams now. And every one of those 8030 days had a matching night connected to them. What did he think about through those long nights? How did his heart yearn? Did he ever think, “If this is how I am rewarded for trying to do right, what’s the point?” Well, he was human wasn’t he? But he didn’t ultimately give in to such thoughts. Twenty-two years! It’s not right to continually pass over them with a sentence or two…or to say, “Well, Joseph just did what he should have done!” It’s not fair to Joseph. We don’t adequately assess this young man of God if we do that.
To fairly judge the life of a person, we need to know more than what they said or did. We need to have an idea of what they were up against. Did they fail in some way? Yes? Okay! That’s bad. We are not happy about that. We hoped for better…and had a right to. BUT, how hard and how long did the person struggle against the wrong before they fell? What pressures were they facing? What went wrong in them or in their lives leading up to the wrong committed? To accept that the wrong a Christian does is the “whole” story of their life may not be correct at all. And if we truly care, we will try to look into it with an open heart. I’m not saying the wrong is to be accepted or looked over…I’m asking how are we going to treat the sinning Christian? The answer to that question surely hangs upon more than their sin. It is perilously easier to say something than to think about it first.
Our Lord looked at three tired disciples on that terrible night in Gethsemane. He was needing their help, and they were needing to give it. It was in His best interest and theirs that they watch and pray. They didn’t get it done. But Jesus doesn’t simply condemn them for their poor performance. He credits them with having willing spirits but weak flesh. He didn’t throw them over. He continued to work on them and in them. And the rest is…as they say…history.
As we read our Bibles and as we work with other humans who fail just as much as we ourselves do, let’s try not to be simplistic. Let’s be patient enough to look a little deeper…to think for a moment about what it would be like for us if we had been there or if we had been them. Sometimes it’s all bad news. I know that. But sometimes we make it worse than it has to be. And sometimes we miss the heroism there may be even in failure. May we learn to look with Christ’s eyes and heart. May we remember that we are not God and cannot possibly take everything into account that God does. Then…let us respond accordingly. What do you think?