I joined a women’s Bible Study today at a local church.  Preparation for the study involved looking up verses and answering questions out of a book.  The topic is the power of forgiveness.  Rather predictably (for me anyways) the study guide began with passages and questions on God’s forgiving heart.  It took me to a lot of very familiar Scripture and ideas.  I finished the obligatory homework with ease.  I probably could have answered the questions without even cracking open my Bible but I really wanted to hear God’s voice in a fresh way even in the familiar passages.

I began to ask God why I was so bored doing this study.  Why was I not extolling Him for forgiving all of my sin like David was in Psalm 103?  I think the answer is that I often don’t see how much of a sinner I really am.  An analogy came to mind which I like to think is from the Lord.

I have a ceramic church on my dining room hutch.  It’s a pretty little thing but it’s chipped a little in the corner.  Unless I pointed that out to you, you could sit in my dining room all day and never notice it.  I can position it in such a way that you don’t see its imperfection.  Until you really examine the piece it looks like a perfectly good hutch embellishment.  I haven’t yet had anyone come into my dining room and look that closely at it and discover that (gasp) it’s chipped.

I suspect a lot of us who grew up in the church are a bit like that ceramic church.  We know we are flawed by sin but yet we look pretty good.  We haven’t had the huge and obvious damages of a wayward life because we’ve been blessed to hear the Word of God and have been steered in a good direction.  By comparison, we hear about and read about and maybe even know of people whose lives have been utterly ruined by sin.  Maybe they are sitting in a jail cell because of it.  Maybe their health has been compromised as a result.  If those people’s lives were represented by a ceramic church, it would look like a handful of broken shards.  Then there are the people who have obviously sinned but have tried really hard to patch up their lives.  Their ceramic churches might look like something glued back together again.  Again, by comparison, the church that represented our lives might look pretty good and intact.

Now imagine that a collector was coming by and was looking to add a ceramic church to his collection.  Imagine everyone coming to him with the ceramic churches that represented their lives.  The collector would quickly dismiss the churches that were a handful of shards.  With equal speed he would not purchase the ones that had been glued back together.  He wants a perfect church for his collection.  His trained eye would see the flaw in the chipped church just as quickly as the broken and glued ones and that church would be rejected as well.  Even though it seemed so much better than the other offerings, it too was not perfect and ended up having the same fate.  All three categories of churches would end up in the rejection pile.

God is a bit like that collector I think.  He isn’t looking for lives that are good in comparison to everyone else’s.  He is looking for perfection and whether we fall a little short or a lot short of the mark we end up in the same place.  A little sin is just as grave as a lot of sin.  I know that I have a little sin in my life.  Many, many people would look at me and my life and tell me that I’m a good person.  They would measure me against the far worse in society and make me come out on top.  The trouble is that God doesn’t measure like people do.  He’s very aware of all of my sin and any sin in my life disqualifies me from abiding with Him.  He’s not going to ask what other people think of me.  He’s going to examine me with a knowing eye and there will be no way that I can postition myself to hide my sinfulness from Him.

Even though I didn’t start with much enthusiasm in this study, I’m glad I did it.  The world’s message to me is that I’m alright the way I am and that I shouldn’t talk about sin or be so hard on myself.  They would encourage me to forget about my flaws and just show what they consider good about me.  God’s message is quite different.  I’m not O.K. the way I am.  I need a Saviour and apart from one I will be rejected.  He’s faithful to not only make me aware of my sin but to also give me the good news that there is a remedy for it.  No one will take a remedy unless they kow they are ill.  I guess the enemy’s strategy is to dupe me into believing that I’m not that ill.  His point would be that I just have that one small chip and nobody is noticing it anyways so why not just ignore it and go on with life.  I want to make it into the collection.  There’s only one way the Collector will take me and that’s if I’ve been restored.  There’s only One who can do that kind of work.  It’s not me.  Jesus.  He’s the restorer of my soul.  He’s the one who can make all things beautiful.  He’s the fixer of the chips, the bad glue jobs and the utterly broken.