My dad, talented in all things musical, had a sharp ear and an equally sharp tongue. His pitch was perfect. He judged without apology.
“Should have been a B-flat not a B-natural,” he burst in shouting.
He could be working the back 40 but when I struck a wrong note on the piano, he appeared huffing and puffing in his dirt smeared Oshkosh B’Gosh overalls. As if the sound crashed through the air and delivered a wave of torture, his ears caught it like a hound in mourning. Beads of sweat glistened on his forehead and agony showed in the creases of his sun-browned face.
“Play it again.”
Practicing piano was like sand in my underwear.
My perfect-pitch father could not bear the dissonance of a practiced note out of place, especially if I continued to play it wrong. In his mind not only did practice make perfect, it most certainly could bring disaster if mistakes weren’t corrected. He understood a learned error became a habit difficult to break. He insisted on disciplining my ear and fingers to get it right from the start.
With such tone precision, wrong notes drove him crazy.
Today I read 1 John 3:4. “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4; ESV)
My dad in faded denim hovering over my fingers on the keys came to mind.
An undisciplined pianist shows disregard for pureness of sound. Lawlessness, violating God’s laws for the Christian at times seems trivial, but John reminds us sin breaks with the perfect standard of God’s holiness. They are incongruent, like clashing chords.
“Practice makes perfect,” my dad used to say referring to my dubious piano skills.
John in chapter 3 reminds us the world, an unregenerate body, does not know Christ. It is in fact, polar opposite in philosophy, standards and eternal destiny. Yet even Christians sin. John is concerned with its ongoing practice, its habit forming dissonance with Christ’s purifying work of salvation.
Most of us have our own personal sin-tolerance levels, lists of best and worst sin practices, things we deem as get-by-with and others insupportable. These, at times we play to the tune of a lazy grade-schooler on a piano bench trying to get by with what she can, a sure road to tone-deafness or sin blindness.
Jesus came to remove sin-deafness. He came to bring discord to the practice of sin in our souls. Jesus offers grace not so that we can repeat lawlessness, but to save us from it. Practicing disobedience is not harmonious with our forgiveness of sin. John is calling us to retune, to check our practicing, to guard against disharmony of soul.
Perfect pitch didn’t pass on to me. Nor did my piano skills attain his desired ideals of “Practice makes perfect.”
Even so, I’m grateful for the lesson I hear through the memory of his voice as I read the words from John.
“…who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness…”
The words beg me to ask a question of my own.
Are the practices of my life perfecting discord or harmony with Jesus?