Anton Chekhov once wrote, "You won't become a saint through other people's sins." To which I reply, "Awww, c'mon! Please? I mean, just look at those sinful people!"
Today's "Grape" is a real gripe of mine. Not because I disagree with it though, but because I know it's right and I hate that I'm guilty of thinking this way far too often. It's not like I expect sainthood (okay, my ego might once in a while) but I do often look around at my fellow human beings and think, "Hmm, I've got a pretty darn good chance of making it into Heaven if these people are my competition!
What I--and a lot of us--forget is that God seems to grade on a curve. And the scariest part is, we're not graded on how we measure up to other people's curves, but how we measure up to our own curves. My life's classroom lasts exactly as long as the time I'm alive on Earth, and no one else has exactly the same teachers as I do. So the final exam I take throughout my life is a completely different one than the one you take.
What does this mean in terms of the quote I opened this reflection with? It means I can't even cheat on your test, or do better on your test than you did, because we're not even taking the same one! Just because I answered 'B' on answer 9,856 doesn't mean it's the correct answer for the 9,856th question on your test. Ugh!!! Don't you just hate that?!?!
Interestingly, even though we are taking completely different exams, a lot of the same material has been covered for both, so we can still study together. As study buddies with one another, we play the role of both teacher and student. There will be things that you can learn from me, just as there are things that I can learn from you.
None have all the answers, but all have most.
We're on a scavenger hunt throughout our lifetime. On our list of lessons to learn are the names of people who live all around the world, each who can teach us something we have on our list. The trick is to find these people and then realize what lessons we have learned from them. And somewhere along the line we'll realize that we've been imparting wisdom to others as well.
The gifts, not the sins
So at some point, the lesson about "other people's sins" becomes clear: It's not their sins that affect our grade, it's their gifts. Their sins are their issue, not ours. And stepping in to help them with their sins is a dangerous business! Jesus said that the one of us with no sins gets to throw the first stone. I look around me and realize that not only can't I be first, I can't even be the millionth in line. So I drop my stone in the ground and move on. If we were to switch that phrase around, we'd see what else Jesus is saying: He who has the most sins will never get around to throwing any stones whatsoever. Annnnd if you have even one sin, you don't get to be the judge.
If the sins of others can't help us get into Heaven, what can help us? The gifts of others, their blessings. Not just the fact of their gifts and blessings though! The APPRECIATION and honest respect and love for their gifts and blessings!
Okay, you think, I love my mother's cooking, and I am wowed by my friend's talent at basketball. No, sorry. The tricky part is that it can't just be people we're really close with; it has to be strangers, preferably strangers we just don't like at all. Yikes! Really? Well I hate to spoil the party, but Jesus did also say we should love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. And I might be wrong, but I don't think he actually followed that up with, "LOL! Just kidding!"
Not easy. I know. I've only had a few people in my life who have hurt me so much that the word "hate" came to mind. Choosing to love these people, forgive them, and then go one step further and appreciate what gifts and blessings they have to offer me and the world--not easy, but it is what we have to do.
Put it another way? When we focus on other people's sins, we're bringing our soul down into the mud, and caking ourselves in the filthiest level of humanity. When we focus on the gifts of even the sinniest sinners, we're being Christlike, which I get the impression Heaven likes.
In conclusion (you're welcome)
You can't get into Heaven based on other people's sins, and you definitely won't be considered a saint in Earth's or Heaven's estimation based on your superiority in moral matters. It's just not the way things work. Our egos think this way, I know because mine sure does. But it's just not Godlike and really very unhelpful. This "gripe" of mine really isn't one, but it is something I struggle with, so this little homily is for myself as much as for anyone who might ever read it.
Another grape on divine looked at and thought about. Many more to explore!