Blameless Sinner (Job 9)
The terminology that Job chooses to describe himself with is really interesting. In chapter 9 he speaks of himself as ‘blameless’ (v.21) and seems to imply throughout that he is innocent. He uses the language of a frustrated defendant in a court of law where the system seems rigged against him. God he thinks of as a rather distant and aloof judge, someone whose attention he can’t get and who even if he could would not listen to him.
It’s understandable enough that Job feels this way – it’s been eight chapters since calamity marred his life and still he’s heard no word from God. He doesn’t understand why any of this has happened. Maybe he didn’t always think of God in these uncharitable terms, but what by now seems like ages of silence and suffering must have warped his thinking.
But the crucial thing is, though these words are bitter and frustrated, he still does not criticise or condemn God. That’s what Satan really wanted, and what Job steadfastly refuses to do. Job isn’t slandering God, he’s just giving voice to his frustrations and trying to work things out in his head. Job is struggling to reconcile his cherished theory of a loving God with his new reality of hardship. It was so much easier when life was rosy.
Job did nothing wrong. But the problem was that he lived in a world where hardship was equated with punishment, meaning that you must have done something wrong. This is pretty much the essence of what Job’s friend say to him, exacerbating his own moral dilemma where he searches his soul for what offence he might unwittingly have committed to deserve all this.
There are plenty who share this worldview today. Do good and good will come to you. The wicked never prosper. Both are founded in Scripture, e.g. In Proverbs, and both are true. In a general sense. That’s crucial. It’s not automatic and it’s not necessarily always true. God’s justice will prevail in the end, but that leaves plenty of scope for bad things to happen to good people in this life. That’s just the way this fallen world works. Job suffered even though he was innocent, the apostles endured great hardship in the service of God in the book of Acts and David and Joseph are both examples of good people who suffered. Suffering can be a part of God’s plan. But in His divine economy it is always compensated for.
There’s a paradox in Job: he was blameless but he was a sinner. He was innocent of any crime, he hadn’t done anything wrong, but he wasn’t perfect. He was still a sinner who, like everyone else, falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). To find that same paradox Christians need only look at their own lives. Being a Christian should make you a better person but it doesn’t make you perfect. It’s not that you’re no longer a sinner it’s that you’re a sinner who’s found their saviour. We become blameless in Jesus even though we’re flawed and fallible.
Accepting this paradox and seeming contradiction is crucial. On the one hand it shows us clearly our need of Jesus and on the other it stops us beating ourselves up over every little slip-up. Those of us in Christ are all on a journey towards becoming better, but none of us will ever be perfect in this lifetime. I don’t know about you, but I find that realisation quite liberating. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to be saved.