I’ve had people say that about me – oh, Meirav is ok, she’s good people.
And I do appreciate the kind intentions, but here’s the truth: I’m human. Flawed. Capable of both good and bad. Sometimes showing kindness and compassion to others – only to, moments later, get really horribly angry with someone and, if I’m not careful, actually hurt them.
I got thinking about this in particular the other day, looking at a particular Bible passage – do you know the story of the lost sheep? Jesus told this parable when some super self-righteous religious guys challenged him about why he was eating with sinners.
The thing about being a self-righteous person is you don’t realise you’re a sinner too, just like those other people you point your finger at.
We humans love doing that – pointing at other people as the bad guys, and making ourselves look good. We like to pick particular types of sin, particular attitudes or types of behaviour, and talk as though those are really bad while the little things we do are… understandable, excusable, normal… Come on, we say, everybody does that… Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re not like those evil people out there…
What are the things you put in that category? You, reading this now. What are the attitudes or types of behaviour that you regard as really bad, the stuff that you think of under the heading of “I’m not a bad person, I’m not like those people who do that”?
For those guys who were criticising Jesus, there were some people who were clearly beyond the pale. Prostitutes, for example.
For self-righteous religious people it’s often the obvious sexual sin that they pick on: look at that person, adulterous, promiscuous, following their urges and their lust, unlike me – I’m so good at keeping faithful to my spouse and hey, let’s not focus on the times I lie or gossip or say hurtful things to people…
If you’re reading this and you’re not religious, you might be thinking: oh yes, those self-righteous religious people are terrible, unlike me – I’m liberal and tolerant and I’m all for love and kindness and I hate those bigots…
See where that’s going? We all like to pick some human attribute as really evil so that we can, by comparison, feel we’re good people – you may point the finger at certain religious attitudes, you may point the finger at terrorists or rapists or murderers, you may point the finger at that person who said that thing that everyone is raging about on social media today, or at people who are cruel to animals, or whatever it is you feel really incensed about… Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s right to feel incensed about these things, I’m absolutely not saying we shouldn’t rant against injustice, but so often we unconsciously use those things as a distraction, to take away the focus from anything evil in ourselves, so that we can carry on pretending – to the world around us and also to ourselves – that we, unlike those terrible people we’re talking about, are good.
Those guys criticising Jesus were doing that, and missing out – just as we all miss out if we’re too busy pointing fingers at others and trying to pretend that we’re ok, we’re good people.
Missing out on what, you ask? Missing out on the one and only answer to our problem – Jesus, the Saviour of mankind. Those guys were so busy pointing fingers at the obvious sinners he was eating with, and pointing fingers at him for eating with them, that they missed the opportunity to acknowledge that they also had the same problem and that they also needed the Saviour.
We shoot ourselves in the foot when we do this.
Jesus’ response to those guys was in parables talking about how God values each one of those sinners and wants to bring them home to him. If we’re busy criticising others and pretending we’re not that bad, we miss out on the opportunity to turn to Jesus for help. It’s a bit like if you’re badly wounded but you’ve covered your bleeding, festering wound with pretty band-aid and instead of going to hospital you sit around chatting with your friends and pretending everything’s ok. In the case of those guys it was even worse – the doctor was right there in front of them, and they were still ignoring their bleeding, festering wounds.
We’re none of us ok, we are all sinners – we may have different types or levels of sin, but we are none of us perfect! Just like you, I’m not “good people” – the only reason I can live with that and not worry about it is because I have turned to Jesus and received God’s forgiveness for all my sins, so I know that even though I’m not good, God doesn’t hold it against me. Through Jesus, who died to take on the punishment I – and all of us – deserve, I got total forgiveness, a clean slate, adoption into God’s family so I can know his love for me personally and talk to him as my loving father and know that when my time comes to leave this life I’ll go to be with him forever, and – oh yes, I also get God’s help for living a better way, he’s been changing me from the inside so I can gradually become a better person than I was when we started this process.
You can have all this too. But you need to take that pretty band-aid off and admit to God that you need his help.