Since the beginning of time, people have been conscious to some degree of a constant striving within themselves to do good. We first experience this struggle as children, when we realize how much easier it is to do wrong than to do right. It’s the reason that, as young as one year old, even before we’re able to speak full sentences, one of our first words is “No.” It’s the reason we all, barely out of diapers, need to be taught culturally and socially appropriate behaviour.
Being imperfect human beings, it’s an impossible feat for anyone to do the right thing all the time; and when we mess up in any way, our conscience wastes little time letting us know it. We may try to make amends somehow for poor behaviour, and usually we’re successful in restoring peace within ourselves and in our relationships. In our WIIFM, rights-obsessed, do-whatever’s-most-convenient-and-least-painful-for-you world, while it seems less importance is placed on the practice these days, it remains a noble thing to acknowledge and admit one’s wrong and to make some attempt to set it right if we can.
Throughout history, believers in a higher moral authority have offered sacrifices to the gods they worship to make amends for their wrongs, and those sacrifices have taken various forms depending on one’s system of beliefs. Even today, one doesn’t have to search too hard to find evidence of human or animal sacrifices being carried out somewhere in our world. But all human effort, however well-intentioned, falls short of the standards of a holy God whose thoughts and ways are far superior to even the most morally upright among us. No sacrifice on our part will suffice to land us in God’s good graces. If we were able to attend our place of worship every day of the week, it would not do. Nor would all the fasting and praying we could manage to fit into our hectic schedules. Nor would giving all our possessions away to the poor, nor any amount of good works, whatever that might mean to us personally. Sounds unreasonable? Yes, it would, to our human ears. But the fact is, no matter how much we can do, there’s always someone capable of doing better. In God’s eyes, at least, no-one can ever win if we compare ourselves to others because none of us are perfect.
When we finally tire of the uncertainty of knowing whether or not we’re making any headway in our own personal efforts to measure up, we can find rest in the knowledge that God, being an impartial and fair judge, leveled the playing field about 2000 years ago by providing the ultimate means whereby all of us, through faith, might find peace with Him, with others, and within ourselves, as well as forgiveness for our wrongs. His name is Jesus Christ, of whom the following was said:
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong [and ever will do wrong],
on him, on him.
Isaiah 53:3-6 (The Message) // Image credit: frenta / 123RF Stock Photo