In the past, all of us have done (and said) ugly-natured, despicable acts. If one were to take a snapshot of a particular sin committed, as though that act were to encapsulate a person in his or her entirety, that would be wrong. No one who ever existed is defined by one or even a few negative or sinful acts. I remember Michael Brown's mother saying, in an interview regarding the Ferguson incident, that we saw 18 seconds of her son doing something wrong on a video; but she has 18 years of knowing her son. (link) From his mother's view, Michael should not be defined by some mistakes or wrong decisions he made any more than should you or I.
We all stumble in many ways (James 3:2), and none of us has yet arrived at perfection (Phil. 3:12). If we take one act, or one word, or even one unfruitful season in someone's life, and in a fit of strain force that moment to define a person, we not only falsely and unwarrantedly objectify the individual, but we also incriminate ourselves, because none of us has yet reached sinless perfection.
When I think of Samson, I do not necessarily think of his sin with Delilah and impose his infatuation and sin with her as the totality of his identity -- who he was as a human being. When I think of King David, I do not necessarily think of his sin with Urriah's wife Bathsheba and impose his sin with her as the totality of his identity -- who he was as a human being. I could admit the same with Solomon, whose life ended badly; and the apostle Paul, who murdered Christians prior to his conversion; or any number of people in the Bible who failed at moments in their life. Are we supposed to take snapshots of people's lives and claim, "This is who you are -- this defines you completely"?
I suppose the answer would be predicated upon an individual's repentance of certain failures or sins. For example, in the case of Jesus' betrayer Judas, we are never given glimpses of genuine repentance from his heart. What do we make, then, of Judas as a human being? What kind of man was he? Though called a disciple of Jesus Christ, we find his heart to be one of betrayal, one of never really being loyal to Christ from the beginning. Betrayal as nature seems to belong to Judas' identity.
Judas' heart and life differs significantly from that of the apostle Peter. Though Peter denied he knew Jesus on three separate occasions, he genuinely repented of his sin, and was restored to a right relationship with Christ. Not so with Judas. Judas opened himself up to Satanic possession by his evil plans and motives. Instead of humbly, self-effacingly seeking repentance, he very selfishly committed suicide.
Portraying Judas as a betrayer can be derived not from a single event or a certain string of events but from the overall consistent attitude of his life. Portraying Peter as a betrayer, however, should not be derived from the three separate events of his having denied knowing Christ because his overall attitude was one of love for Christ -- in spite of his inconsistencies.
The reality is, however, that I no more want to be thought of as "that guy who did this or that" than the apostle Peter wanted to always be thought of as "that guy who denied Christ"; or David as "that guy who committed adultery and had her husband killed in battle"; or whatever you did as "that person who sinned that sin." I remember someone's statement to another person who had committed a terrible act: "This is what you did -- this is not who you are; this does not define you."
When someone's sins and failures become public knowledge there is a temptation to take a snapshot and define him or her by that event. But there exists a type of deception within the hearts of those who take snapshots and define others by them. They tend to think that because their struggles and failures and sins are private then they are not or should not be defined by them. They are not willing to be as stringent with themselves as they are with others. But Jesus said that you "will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you." (Matt. 7:2 NCV)
The apostle Paul adds, "Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (Col. 3:13 NLT) Since "it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it" (James 4:17), and "the person who keeps all the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God's laws" (James 2:10), then I think we need to extend a bit more grace to each other, not defining each other by any failure(s) but by the grace of God in Christ; remembering always that we can possibly be one false step away from any number of various offenses.
We must also keep in mind and live by the words of St Paul, to not "think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment" (Rom. 12:3); "Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God ... So then, each of us will be accountable to God. Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." (Rom. 14:10, 12, 13) This gracious way of living will not only serve the body of Christ better but will also be beneficial when we need the grace and mercy of Christ Jesus our Lord.
This post was written by William Birch. For the original post, go to: http://jacobarminius.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-measure-you-use-will-be-used-on-you.html