In Every Respect
We do not have a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Then let us boldly approach the throne of grace to receive mercy. – Hebrews 4:15-16
Jesus may have been sinless, but he’s never expected you to be. So don’t get hung up on that “without sin” part. Pay attention to the “in every respect” part. Jesus was tested by life just as we are, his weaknesses probed, his frailty in play as he struggled for an authentic life. He knows what is in us.
He’s inside the thousand promises we’ve broken, the thousand times we’ve sworn off a vice and done it again, the thousand lies we’ve told trying to be someone we’re not, the thousand sordid, sad, and stupid sins we’ve hidden from our own consciences, the thousand ways we try to be good and prove ourselves to God, who isn’t interested in self-improvement projects, who just wants us to surrender and come home.
Jesus was a fellow testee, and being tested turned him tender. As we struggle every day, driven by fears, hapless in choosing, distracted by shiny objects, overcrowded with longings, doing the best we can, he sympathizes.
The Apostles Creed says he will “come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Don’t get hung up on the “judge” thing, either. Who best to judge us but the one whose visceral compassion for weakness makes it impossible for him to condemn us? With him on the throne, we approach boldly, as if there’s nothing to fear. Because there isn’t.
If that doesn’t make you weepy and glad, nothing will.
May testing turn me tender, O Mercy. And let my tenderness clear my neighbor’s way to you.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.