If we accept that Job perhaps recognizes the wickedness of his father and believes that he is now paying the price for his father's sins, and if we acknowledge that Job has done the remarkable and chosen a different path - a path of righteousness - for himself, then we start to understand a little bit better why Job is not only so insistent on his own integrity, but why he is so obstinate against his friends that he is not a wicked man.
Because every time his friends say that he must be a sinner, what Job hears is, "You are just like your father."
And, well, Job has worked very hard to be not like his father. Job has built his entire life around not being his father.
It's the same pain that we all feel when someone brings up a past that we'd rather leave behind. We feel the sting of that pain all the way to the depths of our soul. We start to wonder if it's possible that men even can change, or if we're destined forever to simply be who we have always been. We spend our days questioning if we really are who others say we are or if it's possible they just haven't seen it yet. Or maybe they can't see it. Or will they ever see it?
It's frustrating. It's always the things that we've worked hardest to overcome that others never seem willing to let us let go of. There are persons in this world, persons who love us deeply - like Job's friends - who will never see more of us than their first impression. And that stings. It just cuts to the very core of who we are.
It keeps us up at night, replaying every scene and scenario over and over and over again in our heads, trying to figure out what we did wrong. Trying to figure out how our friends, our family, our loved ones got the impression that they got, trying to figure out where our old self has crept in and made itself known. We rehearse these situations over and over and over again, longing to see where the disconnect is between our heart and our actions, between who we thought we were and who others actually saw. It just gnaws at us until we can hardly handle it any more, until nothing but utter defeat sinks into our hearts.
We are sinners. Always have been, always will be. There's nothing we can do to be better than that. So why even try?
Sound familiar? Is it just me? (I don't think it's just me.)
Here's what I want to say to all of us who have ever felt this way, who have ever had this conversation with ourselves after hearing these kind of stinging words from our so-called 'friends:'
Job's integrity was real.
Job's righteousness was legit. And if we're being honest, his friends knew it. It's one of the reasons they liked him so much. He was, as he claimed he was, known for not only his righteousness, but his goodness. His justice, his mercy. His care and compassion. His friendship. He was known for all of these good things. When they weren't sitting in dust and ashes, these were the things his friends knew for certain about him. Job really had changed his life. He really had chosen the better way. He really was a man of integrity, a righteous man, a good man.
It's entirely possible that the rest of us are, too. That we're not as bad as some of the stinging words that we hear sometimes, even from our closest friends.
So, then, what gives? If Job's friends knew who he really was, why were they saying all of these things about him? I'll tell you tomorrow.
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