Although we are all sinners and fall short, there are those of us who identify more with the woman at the well (or prodigal son) than we do with the stereotypical Christian. We are the modern-day congregation of publicans and sinners who sat with Jesus. This gives us a unique and beautiful perspective of God’s grace and mercy and the privilege of truly understanding that we did not (and cannot) earn his love.
Our Light in the Darkness of Shame
At one dark point in my journey with Christ, I wandered so far away that I didn’t feel loved, lovable, or worth saving. I even convinced myself that I was too far gone to pray.
Though I never would have expected it, it was in this wilderness that I experienced God on a deeper level. And since I was too weak, ashamed, and unwilling to go to Him, HE called and came to me.
Sadly, in some Christians circles, we can falsely believe that our sins put a chasm between us and God. I was actually told this once. The truth is that our shame creates a distance.
Thankfully, Jesus came to bridge the gap.
Calling the Sinners
On my walk, I have met a variety of other “rescued people”—the people that society, and even some Christians, look down on. The sinners. Although all fall short, there are still those who struggle to recognize that Jesus came for the spiritually ill.
Unfortunately, they can also feel like their personal behavior is far removed from the sin that so easily besets some of us.
Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
He Knows the Plans He Has and Our Hearts
How blessed are we that Jesus does not base his love (or our worth) on our behavior?
Just look at Peter, Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, or the multitudes.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.John 10
Despite our outward appearance, unacceptable behavior, and being considered unloveable (by some), we are all on the same mission—to follow the voice of the shepherd who calls us.
31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”Luke 5
When we take a time out, we can see how striking Luke 5:31 is—Jesus came to call the sinners, which are capable of hearing his voice—the voice of their true shepherd.
We were the walking dead (in our sins) and now we have life through Christ.
When I look back on my prodigal son type existence, I recognize how undeserving I am of the blessings God has given me. And by blessings I don’t mean material things. I have been gifted with:
- A front row seat to grace , mercy, forgiveness, and redemption
- Knowledge that God loves me even when I don’t get everything right (which I never do)
- An ability to encourage others who feel like they are too bad to have a relationship with God
Another blessing is that we get to share the good news and be a comfort to others. Because so many of us were rescued from the pit, we recognize that redemption is real.
We have firsthand knowledge that when things look the darkest, God’s light is still shining brightly—whether we are in:
- the pit
- a lion’s den
- the fire
- the wilderness
Not Called to Perfection
Despite with some may think, being a Christian is not about living a perfect life. If we were able to do that, we would not need a Savior. We wouldn’t need the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that God has provided to us through the sacrifice of his Son.
Unfortunately, we can get so caught up in being a “good Christian” that we don’t realize we’re actually good box checkers. And if we’re not careful, pride can start to creep in.
We may even start to believe that we deserve what we are given—freely. Once this mindset is in place, we will start to see others as undeserving—a slippery slope that voids the Jesus’ sacrifice.
Sadly, our behavior may start to reflect what can look like self-righteousness…and push others away.
For me, there are still days when I am in tears at the thought of Jesus dying for me—and I struggle to wrap my mind around his forgiveness.
During these periods, I often find myself thinking in terms of my performance rather than redemption.
Instead of relying on the Holy Spirit, I switch into flesh-mode—trying to do things in own strength and worldly wisdom—trying to prove my worth.
And, I’m not alone. Unintentionally, many Christians slip into a mindset of earning love.
So, before we give ourselves kudos for being “good”, we should take a step back and look at our motives:
- Are we trying to behave our way into a relationship with Christ?
- Do we have fruit being produced from our growth in him?
- Are we able to understand the concept of grace and mercy towards others even when their behavior isn’t what we think it should be?
If you’re anything like me (or the Apostle Paul), you struggle daily. That’s why seeking God early and constantly is so important.
We get help with our burdens—which we never meant to carry on our own. Below are a few of the ways in which we can move toward freedom from the slavery of sin.
- Take time each morning to sit at the feet of Jesus
- Praise and worship throughout the day
- Talk to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit…nurture the relationship
- Seek God’s heart for our thoughts and actions
- Expect him to show up and wait with excited anticipation