The alternate title for today’s edition was “My Sins Are Not As Bad As Your Sins.” We will rarely utter either of these statements out loud to anyone. However, if we examine are thoughts, I think they are very prominent in our way of thinking. As such, it reflects a misunderstanding of Who God is, who we are, the seriousness of our own sin, and the radical nature and magnitude of God’s mercy and grace.
As we become entrenched in the political season, we are confronted with many issues that frequently divide our nation. They can also divide the church, the body of Christ. Pick your issue. These are things that we feel very strongly about, and if a candidate or someone we know does not think the same way we do, we malign or belittle them. How can they think that way? What is wrong with them?
It is no different in the church. Again, pick your issue. Jesus said that the world would know that we are His by the way we love each other. And yet, on any given Sunday, in any given church, you can probably find gossip spreading in various corners of the building or right out in the open, as we express our “concern” over someone or some situation. “Did you hear what he said?” “Did you see what they wore to church?” “Did you hear what the leadership did?” “You know what I heard?” I could go on for a long time. The list is endless.
In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told the parable of two men who went to the temple to pray. One man, a Pharisee, was very sure of himself. He thanked God that he was not like other people, like the tax collector standing near him. He bragged about how wonderful he was. Can you imagine the nerve of this guy? Who would ever brag to God about how great they are? However, when we compare ourselves to others, tear them down, or gossip about them, aren’t we doing the same thing? We are basically saying that we are better than they are.
On the other hand, the tax collector would not even look up to heaven. He beat on his chest and cried out to God for mercy, because he knew he was a sinner. He knew his standing before God. Apart from God’s mercy, he knew that he was without hope. And Jesus said that he was the one who went home justified. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
Friends, every single one of us is like this tax collector, whether we realize it or not. We have no standing before a holy God. If we try to stand before God in our own goodness or abilities, we will be utterly rejected. And yet, somehow, we seem to raise ourselves above others. We look at the lives of others and think to ourselves, “Well, at least I am not like them.” Really? Have we forgotten the price that was paid for our sins? Each of my sins nailed Jesus to the cross. Even if I had been the only person who ever lived, my sin would have nailed Him to the cross. And it is the same with you. Our sins, every single one of them, are a rebellion against our holy Creator.
When we look at someone else and malign them for their particular sin, it reveals pride in our lives. This is the pride of the Pharisee, forgetting that he needed God’s mercy just as much as the tax collector. Now, I think it is important that you don’t misread me here. I am not saying that the issue of sin should not be addressed. Issues of sin within the church should be addressed in a biblical manner (for the record, this does not include gossip). When sharing the gospel of Christ with others, it must include the seriousness and consequences of sin. Otherwise, what are we being saved from, poor self-esteem? Hardly!
In the end, I think most people know they are sinners, unless their consciences have been completely seared by sin. The Word tells us this in Romans 1:18-32. God makes it known to them. In my wife’s testimony, she tells of growing up without knowledge of the Bible or Who Jesus Christ was. But she said that when she would go outside and look up at the night sky, she said she knew that there was a God, that He was mighty and holy, and that she was not. When she heard the gospel, she knew she needed what Christ was offering to her.
The problem with us Christians is that we can forget we need the gospel, just as badly as those “sinners” need it. And we need it every day, not just on the day of our salvation. Our need of the gospel never ends. It is the very work of God to transform us from the enemies of God to being welcomed to His table, as His very sons and daughters. It is the righteousness of Christ that brings us to God and holds us as His very own possession, for all eternity.
So, as we live each day, we should remind ourselves that we have been given a gift so much greater than we deserve. We deserve the judgment of God. If we are in Christ, we have been given a glorious inheritance that is beyond our imagination.
And as we view the world’s events and conditions, we need to remember that there is only one thing that will bring true change. It is not economic growth and prosperity. It is not more money in our bank accounts. It is not political change, with the correct candidates or parties or policies. It is not in the education system. In the end, it is not in anything that we can create, build, or legislate. True change will come only through the transformation of individual lives, families, and communities through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we are called to demonstrate this and live it out regardless of the circumstances in the world. We are called to live it out to those who need a Savior, just as badly as we do.
Together for His glory…