There remain a few curious mysteries in life—like why a new car’s value is immediately depleted when it is driven off the showroom floor; like why this morning’s newspaper, if it has been read and creased by someone before you, feel less fresh or interesting to read; like why an otherwise perfectly clean and beautiful sweater is unwearable to a concert if it has the smallest stain.
I am reflecting on this last mystery today because I notice there is a tiny chocolate stain on my good white sweater, on the front near a buttonhole midway up the center. It doesn’t seem fair at all that such a small departure from perfection as that could amount to disqualification from outings to fine restaurants or weddings or WORLD News Group gatherings in Asheville.
The brown spot is no larger in circumference than a nickel, whereas the rest of the sweater—at least 2 yards of it—remains unblemished material. The sweater is still perfectly usable, to boot. And on a certain level it seems ridiculous to sideline an otherwise serviceable item of clothing and go out and buy another just because of a momentary carelessness with a Hershey bar.
What is it in the human psyche that would cause us to pronounce an entirely negative judgment on that sweater in a social situation? I would do it myself, I’m sure. No matter how much I could wish I were “above it” or more understanding, if I saw a woman at an important public gathering with even a postage stamp–sized stain on her garment, I’m sure it would affect my overall impression, if only unconsciously. I would recalibrate my estimation of a whole raft of things about her. That’s awful.
The whole matter leads me to think there may be something instinctive or hardwired in the human mind that recoils at the marring of the perfect. Something implanted deep in us. Some profound thing afoot. The Bible itself seems to resonate:
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10, ESV).
There is a strictness in God, and uncompromisingness about holiness. “Close is for horseshoes,” as they say, but with God even a small spot rendered a sacrificial offering unacceptable:
“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old” (Exodus 12:5, ESV).
History had to wait for a Man to arise who did everything perfectly all of His life—in His speech, in His actions, in His reactions, in His choices, in His trusting God, in all situations—before you and I could have any hope of being saved:
“… you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers … with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18–19, ESV).