My eight-year-old grandson, “G,” is having a conversation about mistakes with his Dad, my son.
G: “Dad, do you think Jesus ever made a mistake?”
Dad: “Well G, very smart people have had different thoughts about that question, what do you think?”
G: (After reflecting), “I think he did, because how could he have ever learned anything if he didn’t.”
G is learning that making mistakes are not only okay for human beings, but also essential. There is a type of perfectionism that is actually a denial of humanity, as if making mistakes, or not knowing something, or forgetting the right answer is the same as sinning.
Do we really think that Jesus never made a mistake on his math homework, or didn’t remember someone’s name or, as a carpenter, always measured exactly right? Jesus didn’t have a reputation for being the “best carpenter” in Nazareth, making perfect doors and always-level tables. Don’t you find it a little intriguing that none of Jesus parables were about carpentry, as if it might be a subject better forgotten?
Jesus is fully human. Jesus made mistakes.
Errors made in any learning process are then incorporated into the maturing of a person. What do you think it means that ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature before God and Man?’
There were things Jesus didn’t know. He didn’t know about Star Wars, or Schrödinger’s Cat or Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. He couldn’t have told you about the Incan or Australian aboriginal tribes or the effects of cosmic radiation on narcolepsy. When he cried as a baby, or stubbed his toe, or misspelled a word, he did so because he is human. He asked questions because he didn’t know. He asked for help because he needed it. And he made the constant choice to trust God because he knew he was human.
Pride is a sin because it is a denial of being human. Humility is always a celebration of something essentially human.
When we say things like “Please forgive me. I made a mistake. I was wrong. I didn’t listen. May I ask a question? I didn’t know. I realize now that I hurt you,” we are celebrating our humanity. I am learning myself. I am open to being wrong.
Human humility is our way forward, whether we are talking about Scripture or social challenges, political perspectives or cultural differences. The way of Jesus is not one of the prideful divisiveness of perfectionism, but the human way—the open hand and heart and mind clothed in the humility of trust.