Recently, the Phil Vischer Podcast had an episode with a Bible expert, and the team talked about the many ways people mishandle the Scriptures and how not to. It was a good show.
More than anything, what God drove home to me from that episode is that all of us, in some way, mangle our use of the Bible. Further, that’s OK.
Well, maybe it’s not OK that the Bible gets used wrongly by people but more that everyone is going to do it at some time. Because people are fallible, broken, wrong, stupid, selfish, and just plain messed up. How then can we expect them to always handle God’s words perfectly?
If you asked me what one piece of wisdom I could contribute to the vast collection of human understanding, I’d offer this: Every person you encounter in your life you see a slice of only. You don’t see their whole life, their joys, their failures. You don’t see what molded them for good or for ill. You just see that slice. And like a core sample from arctic ice, that person’s life consists of multiple layers of events and realizations that can only be interpreted after careful and prolonged study. And truthfully, some of it may never be understood by you because the person himself/herself doesn’t understand it either.
There is no growth in the Christian life without starting from a place of error and moving to a place that is less error-filled. You and I don’t get to decide whether the person before us now is in that error-filled place or not. Sometimes, that person is the one we see in the mirror.
This is why grace exists. Remember grace? It’s meant by God for us to use when we encounter flawed people who are in the process and on the journey. And frankly, that’s every person on earth.
God’s promise to us:
The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.
—Jeremiah 18: 1-4
That verse applies to Israel, but what it says about God is what matters.
We are all spoiled vessels. We are all mistaken, wrong, off. And if you catch any one of us in the process of being remolded to the potter’s ideal, we will look ill-formed, ugly even.
But God as potter is faithful to mold us into something beautiful.
So when you come across someone who is wrong or “stupid” or acting ignorantly by your standards, realize that he or she is in that molding stage. It is unfair to judge an artistic work mid-stream, by that slice of life that you see now but which is not the entire creation story. The best thing we can do is to be as faithful as we can to stick around and see how that half-finished vessel will turn out. To the potter at least, it will be gorgeous in His eyes. And ultimately, is not the Author of beauty its best judge?