Learning from Imperfect People


Most of us want to learn from perfect people.

Now, I don’t mean technically perfect people. Outside of Christ there is no one who is truly perfect. What I mean is many of us want to learn from those who have their lives together in a greater degree than we do: a pastor, an evangelist, a great teacher.  Someone higher than us.

I understand where this attitude comes from. It’s a growth mentality that continually wants to improve and push the boundaries of development. The problem is I don’t know that this is the attitude Jesus wants us to have.

When Jesus comes into the life of a person, we assume that person starts at ground zero. They know nothing about Christ and they have nothing to contribute. The truth is they have no facts, but they have the fullness of God dwelling in them by the Holy Spirit.  This is a significant reality that most of us minimize. The Holy Spirit living in us is real, not just a nice thing we say about people. What this means is we have to be willing to learn from those who don’t have their lives completely together, because Jesus still might be speaking to us through them.

Jesus was like this, too, right? He didn’t learn from others, He was the Teacher, but he often pointed to people outside of religious circles to teach others about following God. He used a Roman Centurion as an example of faith in Matthew 8:5-13. Surely the Jews of Christ’s day would have been horribly offended by this. But Jesus didn’t mind that the Centurion in many other ways wasn’t perfect. He zeroed in on his act of faith and put it on display for the whole world to see.

My point is, in your world there are people who, to your critical mind, are imperfect examples of following Jesus. It’s tempting to write those people off and never learn from them. But I have a secret for you: There are no perfect examples of following Jesus.  In fact, if you waiting for a perfect example to come into your life to learn from, you’ll be waiting for a long time. Instead, don’t think of yourself more highly than you are. Associate with the lowly. Don’t be to proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.

Imperfect examples have much to teach us. I’ve learned much about what not to do from listening to imperfect people reflect on where they’ve made mistakes. I’ve seen real life apostles sit in humility as the Holy Spirit moved on the most common people within a church speaking life-changing truth. I’ve sat in Bible studies with new and not-yet believers and been struck with truth about Jesus as we’ve looked at the Bible through their eyes.

All it takes is enough humility to learn from someone you might think doesn’t have it all together.  Imperfect people are all around you. You have plenty of opportunities to learn if you want. You just need to be open to it.


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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

5 responses to “Learning from Imperfect People”

  1. gunnarlarmstrong says :

    Thank you. A very important point to God’s heart in relationships. It is hard to be willing to learn from people who are not as “spiritual” as we think we are. But, God is at work in them — and he placed them in our lives so that he could work through them to teach us (not just so that we, in our great wisdom(!), would teach them). That is a reminder that is challenging to my pride.

    By the way, I think you have a typo in the paragraph about the Centurion. I don’t think that the next to last sentence in that paragraph says what you meant it to say (“But Jesus didn’t mind that the Centurion in many other ways was perfect”). Or maybe I just don’t understand that sentence.

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