Matthew 12:20 “A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out, until He leads justice to victory.”
What a surprising relationship God has with the idea of perfection! On one hand, He is the one and only perfect being or entity in the entire universe; in fact, the very idea of perfection is based on His nature. And yet, Jesus was not a perfectionist. There is a great difference between being perfect and being a perfectionist. The idea of someone being a perfectionist has a negative connotation; it includes judgmentalism and criticism of others (and sometimes of self).
But as Jesus came to publicly own the title of Messiah in Matthew 12, Matthew (Matthew 12:20) quoted from Isaiah 42:3 “A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.” This is not the behavior of a perfectionist judge, but of a compassionate and hopeful Savior. And this is what Jesus did all through His life. He did not go about the country in a raw and brutal fashion applying the Law to the utter and absolute destruction of human life and reputation. Jesus was tender and kind, especially to those who were willing to repent and those who sincerely responded to the revelation of God in the Logos, Jesus Christ. Among those who came and found hope, the forgiveness of sin, cleansing, and joy was Zacchaeus, a thief on the cross, a woman caught in adultery, a believing Pharisee, several who were demon-possessed, and the list goes on and on. John said in John 3:17, “God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ is GOOD NEWS for sinners, violators of the law, persecutors of God’s church (like the Apostle Paul), and all sorts of wicked people. Great sinners make good Christians when God saves them. And after salvation, there is no condemnation in sin for the believer, but always we are called to repentance through God’s grace, love, and joy. It is true that the gospel holds a condemnatory note for the unrepentant and the stubborn who refuse to turn to God. But to the one who genuinely wants to change, who turns his life over to Jesus, and who follows Him, there is FULL AND FREE FORGIVENESS and GRACE! If there is but a small portion of life in the reed, Jesus will not break it. If there is but a speck of fire in the smoldering wick, Jesus will breathe new life into it so that it may blaze into a fire of holy joy and love!
God’s people and the church must always be fearful of a new kind of Pharisaism that follows humanly devised guidelines of belief and behavior, instead of following the Bible and Christ. The message of the gospel is that we are saved through Christ; our righteousness is His applied to us. Let us never lose the humble and childlike gratitude for His salvation in our lives. And let us treat those sinners who seek to turn back to God with gentle and tender care; for we are working with Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to not break the bent reed or put out the smoldering wick. Ours is a message of hope and redemption.
Prayer: Dear Lord, deliver me from self-righteousness and pride. Deliver me from looking down in disdain on those who have sinned against You. Thank You for always nurturing the life in the flame, no matter how small it appears. Help us to never lose hope that life can come, even from the most barren source, for You are a miracle-working God.