God can transform our mistakes into something beautiful, says Rev. Faith Timmons, and this is the message many people need to hear. So, how will you share this good news?
FAITH GREEN TIMMONS
Elder, Michigan Conference
Remember those family Bibles that often sat in our grandparents’ parlors? Passed down from generation to generation and often filled with family history, there was space for birthdays, anniversaries, baptismal records, and death dates. Those voluminous editions, with gilded pages and Jesus’ words in red, had to weigh 10 pounds or more! What I remember most is the decorative lettering. Some pages had paragraphs with colorful, illuminated calligraphy that seemed almost random.
Some 25 years ago, I took an ancient manuscript writing course. I learned that those artistic embellishments, historically, were attempts by biblical scribes to mask transcription errors. Parchment scrolls were costly. Rather than discard them due to mistakes, they incorporated the errors. More than an attempt to mask misprints, this masterful technique was skillfully implemented in a way that increased the worth of any volume.
Using this illustration helps some people envision what God has the potential to do in their lives. I’ve met people convinced that a life in Christ was not an option for them. They were too guilty, too dirty, or even, as one person told me, downright “wicked.” These people believed in God but had difficulty believing that God’s grace was sufficient for them or that it was not too late.
That’s when I mention priceless religious artworks displayed in the world’s greatest museums. What made them valuable was the redemption of mistakes through the transformation of those manuscripts.
Many people long for someone to address their spiritual concerns, encourage their hearts, and help them overcome fears and doubts. Little does more to offer people peace than the assurance that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NRSVue).
God calls us to allow every aspect of our lives to be redeemed and transformed. What that looks like is not denigrating anyone for who they are or for any perceived shortcomings but instead helping them discover God’s great expertise in bringing beauty out of ashes. That’s accomplished in the same way that ancient handwriting errors added worth after they were highlighted in gold:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold . . .” (Psalm 19:7-10, NKJV).
One would think hiding mistakes, rather than illuminating them, would be the way to go, or discarding flawed works altogether. But Jesus is a redeemer. Much like those scribes, God can and will use every aspect of life and offer us that opportunity.
This approach to sharing the gospel guides others along a path of discovery that leads to discipleship. This path of discovery can be traced through scripture:
- “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17, ESV).
- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free . . .” (Romans 8:1-2).
Often, the most challenging aspect of evangelizing, in my experience, is not convincing people that there is a God but getting them to understand that our loving God offers forgiveness and grace to all. “All” is the most significant word here because it means that there are no exceptions. Some are convinced that despite “all” being an inclusive word, God’s grace somehow falls short of including them.
They conceptualize a God who is too pure to accept impurities. They see God as perfect yet unable to look past human imperfections or so judgmental that they dare not dream of full redemption. I’ve met many people who deem themselves unworthy.
At the same time, I have met no one who didn’t seem highly encouraged by the illustration of the redeemed manuscript. It prepares hearts to place their hope in Christ and consider the great prospects of how a new life lived in him offers restoration, renewal, and salvation.
Rev. Faith Green Timmons is a United Methodist elder and a member of the Michigan Annual Conference. She spent time as a journalist before pursuing full-time ministry.
Last Updated on July 25, 2023