Have you ever given much thought to what I call “the sketchiness of the saints”? Seriously, when you really focus on the stories behind the people on many of the Bible’s pages, you have to wonder how they ever were included in a Holy Book.
I mean, the very first two people in the Bible betray God and give in to the spirit of temptation. That’s how the whole story kicks off. Then there’s Abraham expelling his wife and child because an additional wife was jealous, Noah and his chemical abuse, Joseph and his vanity, Jacob and his lies, Moses the murderer, Aaron creating idols, Job and his negativity, Jonah and his anger management issues, David and his adultery and murder, Naomi’s successful scheme for Ruth to seduce Boaz, Simon Peter and his denial of Jesus, Paul the persecutor of Christians and an accomplice to murder, Thomas the doubter, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Seriously, by today’s standards half the people depicted with haloes on the stained glass windows of the world’s great cathedrals would have wound up in jail!
So, what do we make of that? I think Paul summed it up beautifully when he wrote, “For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the glory belongs to God and not to us!” (II Corinthians 4:7) There is a spiritual Ah Ha moment, if ever there were one! God can use anyone God chooses to do anything at all. I heard a theologian once say: “God does such great work with sinners. Of course,” she continued, “that’s because sinners are all God has to work with!” “Earthen vessels.”
The good news in all this is that if God can build the Kingdom of Grace with those characters from the pages of scripture, God can also work miracles with contemporary characters like you and me. I could trot out any number of illustrations, but you’ve already heard them. They are stories of men and women with checkered pasts whom God used to do magnificent things for the cause of Christ and the well-being of people.
You’re familiar with the old Portuguese proverb, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” It really is true. It doesn’t matter how off the mark our yesterdays may have been. (Note: the word “sin” is derived from an ancient archery term that meant “to miss the mark.”) It doesn’t matter what we have done or failed to do with our lives to this point. It doesn’t even matter that we are flawed or imperfect at the present moment. Who isn’t? What matters is that God has a plan for us, a purpose for us, and God can use us to do holy things even if we have not always been entirely whole. “God does such great work with sinners.” “God writes straight with crooked lines.” “We have this treasure in earthen vessels....”
So, let’s remember two things: (1) You need to believe in yourself, because God has a holy plan for you. Don’t focus on your failings, focus on your potential. Don’t live in your past, live into the future God desires for you. As another minster said to me a long time ago: “God is not nearly as interested in where we’ve been as in where we’re going.” (2) It is actually about God, anyway. God can do whatever God wants to do and with or through whomever God chooses. If God wants to use you to make a dent in the world for kindness and charity and compassion and love, then God has that power. Just go with that flow. As Paul wrote, “For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the glory belongs to God and not to us!” Believe in yourself... Believe in God... and wait for the miracles to begin.