“Sometimes we’re good, sometimes we’re bad.”
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ[d] for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement[e] by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
(Romans 3:21-26 NRSV).
When my children were small, my sister was watching them for me one day when they were being particularly naughty. She asked them, “Why can’t you just be good?” My daughter responded, with a shrug of her shoulders, “Sometimes we’re good. Sometimes we’re bad.” Indeed, we are! We have all sinned and we do sin. We are all in need mercy, which our God offers.
It is more difficult for us to offer mercy to one another. There are times for accountability in our relationships. It is part of our Methodist tradition to belong to an accountability group. It is also part of our tradition to understand that going on to perfection means that we are there yet. God isn’t finished with any of us and so we are all in process. My work sometimes puts me into encounters with people when they are not at their best. I see followers of Jesus, when they are not witnessing well to the Gospel. Sometimes I am that person, too. At my best, when I see poor Christian witnessing, I try to put on eyeglasses of compassion – to be curious about the pain and/or anger of the other that might be causing their poor witness. I try to be empathic rather than becoming reactive or submitting to the contagion of anxiety or rage. I try to look at the other as a precious child of God. I try to be a non-anxious and loving presence, even if, and when, I need to speak hard truths. The command to love our neighbor would be practically meaningless if we only loved those we like and agree with. The power of the Gospel means also loving the hard to love. St. Paul was right. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory.” My daughter was also right, “Sometimes we’re good. Sometimes we’re bad.”
Lord, help us to be our best, that we may be witnesses to the Gospel in all that we say and do. Be present with us especially when the behavior of others most challenges our capacities for love and mercy.
Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way,
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit, till all shall see,
Christ only, always, living in me!
(UMH#382 v. Adelaide A. Pollard (1902)