From a doctrinal standpoint, we become saints at the moment of salvation. But one of my younger sisters, Natalea, observed that from a relational standpoint, the distinction isn’t quite so clear. In fact, her observation was that as each member of our family left home, we entered “sainthood” in the eyes of the remaining family.
Where those at home had once been frustrated over toothpaste left in the sink or excessive talking, or whatever the weaker points of one member’s character had been, they now received a phone call or email from the departed loved one as if it were a treasured honor bestowed upon them.
Natalea’s observation rang so true (in a sort of ridiculous sense) that my family has adopted the prefix of “saint” for a family member visiting at home. Once they even posted a sign, “Welcome, Saint Daniel.”
But even before “sainthood” entered our family, another author observed this phenomenon:
To live above with saints we love, oh, that will be glory;
But to live below with saints we know, now that’s another story!
Isn’t it true? Even the most gracious and godly people are still just people. And as such, they tend to look better from a distance.
Read the biographies of great Christians, and you will find flaws. In a biography the flaws are often contained in one paragraph or page, but in real life? Imperfections of character are more grating when they are daily encountered face to face than when breezed over on the written page.
And yet, in retrospect, we deeply appreciate the Christian giants whose co-laborers may have at times felt frustrated. We willingly forget their habits of the flesh and appreciate their heart for God and their example of surrendered service to the Lord.
We don’t mind briefly mentioning, “Oh, yes, so-and-so could sometimes have a temper” or “Sometimes she could be demanding and difficult to work with.” And then we move on to note the incredible works of faith in that person’s life. But when we are personally impacted by those same flaws in a fellow-laborer? That’s another story. No longer is it “she can sometimes be demanding,” now it is “she just always thinks she knows the best way to do things and never listens to others’ input and…”
Perhaps we should take the same approach for those with whom we rub shoulders every day. Perhaps we should induct them into our annals of “sainthood” while we have the opportunity to closely appreciate their Christlike qualities (mixed as those qualities may be with the flesh with which we all struggle).
Perhaps we don’t have to wait until somebody leaves until we call them a saint.
Perhaps we can acknowledge the reality that our fellow Christians are saints. Perhaps it would help.
And on a more personal note, I’m thankful my saint-sister is coming to live with me. Welcome, saint Natalea!!