Have you ever heard the saying, “All things are relative?” If I am doing 40 miles per hour on the road, I am speeding by a pedestrian walking in the same direction; but the guy doing 60 in his sports car flies by me like I am standing still! Who is going fast and who is going slow? It’s all relative. The one thing that is undeniable is that I am doing 40.
There was a man who was a shepherd. Every day he walked behind the sheep, watching out where they go and making sure none got left behind or wandered off. Of course, walking behind the sheep meant that he often stepped in something he didn’t want to, but it was all part of the job, so every night he went home and smelled like, well, let’s just say he didn’t smell nice. After many years of this, he and his family got so used to the smell that he didn’t even notice it anymore. But his shoes were always dirty and always smelled bad.
One day he went into the city and was standing in an elevator with other people, all dressed nicely for work. As the elevator starting going up, the people began to seem jittery, nervously looking around, some picking up their feet and looking at the bottom of their shoes. Finally, one man came forward and said to the shepherd, “Friend, you smell very bad and you should be more considerate of the other people in the world who have to be close to you.”
At this the shepherd realized that he forgot about his shoes smelling so bad, but in his embarrassment he did not humbly ask forgiveness. Instead, he flicked his shoes at the man, sending sheep-stuff all over the man and everyone close by. Then he said, “You smell bad, too- I’m no worse than you! Who do you think you are talking to me that way?” Then all the other people accosted the man who told the shepherd he stunk and blamed him for their foul smell. The shepherd walked out of the elevator, feeling justified, the people walked out of the elevator mad at the man who told the truth, and the man who told the truth just rode to the top, smelling bad and wondering how they could all be so blind.
This is what the world is like- those who do wrong and are inconsiderate do not take responsibility for themselves and humbly ask forgiveness, trying to do better. Instead, they throw sheep-stuff all over everyone else, pointing out that everyone stinks, everyone does wrong, everyone cheats on their taxes, nobody stops at stop signs, everyone calls in sick when they aren’t, and they walk away feeling they haven’t done anything wrong.
Well, they seem to be getting away with it, but sooner or later we all face the one judge that can’t be sent on a wild goose chase or be fooled by a red herring.
It is hard to be told when you have done wrong- I think nearly everyone, from embarrassment and shame, would prefer to hide when they have done wrong and pretend it didn’t happen than face the music and apologize. There are some who will immediately apologize, accept their wrongdoing and act responsibly. Most, I am afraid (disagree if you think I am wrong) will make excuses and try to blame others. By throwing sheep-stuff on everyone else, they seem to be, relatively, less smelly. Or, at least, everyone else smells just as bad so they are “normal” and, therefore, not in the wrong.
The difference between those that accept responsibility for their actions and those that try to avoid them, what I call the “Teflon” people (nothing sticks to Teflon), is more than just emotional maturity- it is spiritual maturity and a fear of God. Not fear of retribution, but fear in the biblical sense- awe at His holiness and respect for His commandments.
The bible teaches us much, and one of the most important lessons is that we are, and will be held, responsible for our actions. It is everywhere, from the prophets being responsible to warn the people, to Moses being responsible for striking the rock twice in anger, to Samson being delivered up to the Philistines because of the damage he caused to their crops, to the kings and people of both Shomron (Israel- the Northern Kingdom) and Judah being expelled from their land due to their continued sinfulness.
I liken Yeshua to the man who, in the parable above, is the one telling the smelly person what everyone else knew but did not take responsibility (to the smelly man) to tell him, and ultimately was the one who everyone was mad at. Yeshua did take responsibility, not for Himself but for everyone else. For you, for me, for everyone. He took the stench we have off of us and wore on Himself, all the way to the Execution Stake.
It is hard to be responsible. Not just for what we do, but to tell others when they need to know they are doing wrong. It has to be done with compassion and with the strength to accept that you may end up being the one hated for telling the truth that everyone else knows but doesn’t have the strength, spiritually or emotionally, to face.
We all sin, we all will sin, none of us can stop sinning; don’t use that fact as a reason to keep sinning. Everyone will be held accountable for their choices when they face the Holy One in the final court, and if you can’t handle being corrected on Earth, while you have time to amend your ways, in front of God you will not be able to throw sheep-stuff on anyone else because it will be just you and God, and God can’t be fooled.
We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less.
So clean your shoes, wash your body and be aware of when you start to stink. And more than anything else, accept correction humbly and gratefully- it may save your soul!
Even if the person correcting you doesn’t do it well, the bottom line is not whether they correct you nicely or angrily: the bottom line is whether or not they are right!