In one moment they destroyed the perfect and harmonious existence that our Father had created for us.
So thank you Adam and Eve, you will forever be known as two of the most ungrateful tenants in history!
Oh and the twelve disciples are another marvellous example of people ruining relationships. So let's examine them shall we ….they had God as their BFF, confidant, mentor and personal wine manufacturer…and yet STILL they questioned his judgement, denied him, oh yeah, and one of them betrayed him. They had the MOST perfect individual as their guide and yet STILL they messed up, time and time again! So thank you Judas…for being both a coward and an atrocious mathematician / negotiator (the Son of God for thirty pieces of silver??? Doesn't quite add up does it!).
And that is just two examples! If you just looked at the bible, or everyday life for that matter, I promise you, that you will not be lacking in examples where human beings taint and spoil perfect settings, efficient establishments and harmonious relationships.
We cannot seem help it. We are SINNERS! And everywhere we go, everything we touch and everything that we say is always going to be susceptible to our sinful nature whether it be lust or greed or selfish ambition.
Of course human beings do not always seek to destroy and tarnish the positive aspects or influences within their lives. Sometimes we just do these 'things' whatever they may be, without any intent or malice.
But here's the clanger…sometimes we do. Sometimes we DO seek a course of action, knowing fair well that our worlds may very well crumble around us. We choose sinfulness and hope that we will escape all consequences unscathed and perfect. Yet, as we can see through Adam and Eve's fine example….consequences inevitably ensue no matter how much we lie, or hide or evade them.
And once they do, that 'perfect' relationship or that 'perfect' event has suddenly become polluted and muddled and changed forever.
People aren't perfect?
The problem that we face in this world, yet rarely acknowledge, is actually quite simple…people aren't perfect!
Yet why, oh why, do we expect, nay demand perfection when we know very well that we are never, and I mean NEVER, going to achieve it?
Are we dense? Probably!
Are we hopeful? Definitely!
Or are we just prideful beings, who believe deep down that nothing we ever do nor create could ever go amiss as long as we were in control? Absolutely!
Achieving perfection…just without people!
The real issue that we face isn't that we are imperfect beings! We know this as Christians. Heck, we reference this topic frequently in our Sunday services, bible study groups and during times of prayer.
Rather the issue is this…we do not always react in a humble or judicious fashion when other people demonstrate their imperfection towards us!
Am I right?
Perfection, as we all know, could honestly be achieved in almost any business or organisation or event, just as long as people were expelled!
They add value, do not misunderstand me. But they also invite a gamut of emotions and intentions and baggage…all of which have the potential to invite sin and therefore imperfection!
I have experienced this many times through my own work here in the Philippines. Over the last two years there have been times when I have looked at my work, and I thought to myself "this contract is a thing of beauty". The rules are simple. The guidelines are clear.
And yet somehow, somehow once this contractâ€"this firm and resounding piece of paperâ€"comes into contact with people, it's worth and strength suddenly dissipates. And its perfect intentions have become clouded. Its guidelines have become obscured. And before I know it, my perfect program on paper has transpired into a shambolic heap.
Perfection I have come to see, is impossible wherever people reside!
Disappointing God time and time again!
Last week, my dear friends - who I am living with in the Philippines - experienced several trials…all people related. Friends whom they had employed, empowered and entrusted, had betrayed them. They had lied and they had brought a cloud of gossip and disrepute over a house that sought to instil compassion and love and justice to the dejected and unloved people of Manila. Basically they stuffed up and the fallout was complex and emotionally charged.
So as you could only imagine, my friends were hurt and they were despairing. And they felt a little disenchanted by people.
Yet in the midst of all this hurt, in the midst of all this drama, my friend Cherie turned to me and said "This must be how Jesus feels every time we disappoint and hurt him".
It was a revelation!
Just like my perfect paper contract that was once perfect before sinfulness spoiled it, we too were once perfect!
We were perfect!
But our sinfulness, our humanness inevitably came to bare, and because of that we could no longer claim to be perfect. Which essentially translates into….we make mistakes. We disappoint God. We betray him daily.
Everyday! Without fail.
So, just as people muddy our perfect plans, or our perfect events, or our perfect programs, so too do we muddle with Gods perfect creation and perfect plans.
Grace…it's as simple as that!
So if acknowledging imperfection, in ourselves and in others, is the first step… then what?
What do we do with this information? Do we punish ourselves? Do we repent? Or do we become complacent and indifferent to our sinful natures?
In the book Jesus Is, Judah Smith examines sinfulness particularly through the well-known parable of the Prodigal Son. According to Smith we often look at this parable and focus on the sons "humility and repentance, as if that somehow earned him forgiveness".
But it didn't!
"Yes, his repentance is important", says Smith, "because without it he wouldn't have returned to the father". But his self-condemnation and self-deprecation could never make him worthy of being accepted" either.
Nothing, Smith says, could make this son worthy of forgiveness! Yet in spite of this, His father embraced him, gave him a robe and threw him a giant banquet.
This was Grace! Undeserved, unmerited, unearned favour in action.
Sinfulness was inevitable. But the forgiveness for the father didn't have to be!
And yet it was! It was given wholly without conditions or without redemption. It was simply extended through love and through Grace!
So, just like the man who embraced his wayward son, so too does our Father in heaven embrace us, in spite of our endless imperfections.
Our imperfections are resoundingly branded across everything we say and cross everything that we do, and yet God still cares for and embraces us.
So how then, do we respond to others who will absolutely exhibit their imperfections towards us? Do we disown them? Do we demonise them? Or do we also acknowledge that they are human, that they are imperfect and that just like us they are going to make mistakes?
Are we going to start exhibiting Grace to one another, just as our father does for us, every single day? Underserved, unmerited and unearned forgiveness and love!
Alison Barkley recently relocated to the Philippines for work, study and a whole lot of adventure. She is currently studying her Masters of International and Community Development at Deakin University.
Alison Barkley's archive of articles may be viewed at:www.pressserviceinternational.org/alison-barkley.html