During a recent conversation with a friend, I made reference to the upcoming holiday for Martin Luther King. As usual, when talking about MLK, I found myself remarking about his incredible speeches and the advancements in civil rights that he accomplished. I also, as I have for years, mentioned my regret at his premature death. My friend’s response to my comments stopped me. Instead of remarking on the man’s accomplishments, all he said was “Yes, but do you know the other things he was involved in. The man had problems.” With that, the conversation was over. Where I wanted to remember the man for what he did right, my friend could only remember him for what he did wrong.
Some of you may accuse me after you read this of being an apologist. You may tell me that I am blinded by the accomplishment and that we have to take the person in their totality to have an accurate picture of a person. You may even tell me that the darkness in a person’s life will always put out the light. As a reasonable man, I could not argue your point, but I do choose to disagree with your position.
To me it seems that our culture in America has become more vicious by the year. We build people up only to tear them down. It has become sport to pick apart the shortcomings in others and to make sure that everyone is made aware of those things. It seems to me that as a people, this spotlighting of others, especially the well-known, has become a great way to deflect attention from our own lives.
Two scripture texts that come to mind that I would like you to consider today are “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” and David’s cry “Search me oh Lord.” Both of these speak to a fundamental truth about humanity; none of us are quite what we project that we are. Behind every life are secrets that we pray can remain a secret. Your wife or husband may know. A parent may be in the loop, a trusted friend or advisor, but we all have had moments that we are thankful have not defined us as people.
I am not trying to say that a person’s character is to be overlooked or that mistakes cannot taint their accomplishments, because they will. I would like to suggest that part of living a life of grace is to see the value in people separate from their failings. If God is to be the judge, then He will determine the final outcome of a life. That to me is freeing to appreciate the accomplishments of a life in spite of their mistakes.
I believe it is fair to look at people and wonder if they could have accomplished more if they had allowed God to help them have victory in their secret lives. We can by observation learn how to avoid traps that may threaten our own destiny. The accomplishment can be learned from and appreciated, but in no way does the life have to become a personal role model for our growth.
The old song says to “Turn our eyes upon Jesus, look full into His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” To summarize my thoughts, I have grown weary of the constant drum beat of those who are always focused on the twig in the eye of others and miss the log in their own. How can we be called people of grace and mercy when from our mouths comes anything but that?