Back in the Stratford of the 1960s, I remember a shop where they kept a box of tins of food that had been damaged. Some had lost their labels, some were dented and some had just got a bit scuffed. There was a sign on the box, saying ‘Damaged goods. Cheap!’, but not many people bought those tins, They preferred the perfect-looking ones on the shelves.
I always thought that a shame, because there was nothing wrong with the food in the tins in the box. Outside, they might look a bit battered, but inside they were every bit as good as the perfect ones on the shelves – perhaps even better. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, isn’t it?
I confess that I often feel that way when I watch politicians at party conferences. Naturally, they want to present the best of themselves to the voters, but all too often they can all end up looking and sounding a bit too perfect. This is despite the fact that, over the years, it has often been the politicians who have been prepared to admit to being human who have been the most successful at engaging with people.
The truth is that it is often people who aren’t perfect, who have lived a bit, and who have been battered a bit by life, who actually turn out to be better at making decisions on behalf of us all. That’s not surprising because, if we’re honest, all of us have to admit that we have made mistakes, whether big or small, and had to learn from them. All of us have picked up a few knocks as we go through life. And all of us fall short of perfection, whoever we are.
As a Christian leader, it seems to be that God really isn’t interested in superficial perfection. He looks at the inside. However battered and dented we are, we’re not ‘damaged goods’ to him. We’re just forgiven sinners who, if we have any sense, are learning to be better day by day, and helping others to do the same, by the grace of God.
An edited version of this piece appeared first in the Newham Recorder.