February 23, 2015

Luke 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

The story that follows this verse is justly famous. It is an enormous comfort to those who throw themselves on the grace of God, but it really “sticks it to” those who are described in this verse. There are two parts to this description. First, such people are assured of their own righteousness. This is in spite of such passages as Psalm 14:3, “There is no one who does good, not even one,” and Ecclesiastes 7:20, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” Paul famously paraphrased that thought in Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Thinking we’ve got it all together, that we’re perfect, is essentially a slap in God’s face, because He alone is perfect. We are to keep our repentance up to date and so operate in the righteousness of Christ, (1 Corinthians 1:30) but we must maintain our awareness that this is possible only by the grace of God. The other half of the description in this verse, that makes it even worse, is the matter of looking down on others. Sadly, Christians have quite a reputation for this, whether deserved or not. Some people are going to feel condemned simply by being around someone who is living a righteous lifestyle, but that is their problem. The task for those who operate in the righteousness of Christ is to be accepting of those who aren’t there yet, so that they will have the opportunity to share the grace that they have received. Sadly, we have all encountered “Sister Better-than-you,” as one comedian very aptly put it. Jesus consistently taught that humility is essential for all who would live in the family of God.

I have been yelled at by a bar patron for drinking a soft drink rather than alcohol (I was there with my boss), so I understand people projecting their self-condemnation onto others. However, I need to do all I can to keep such reactions to a minimum. That’s not to say that I’m to excuse sin, open or otherwise, but I’m not to act shocked or disgusted by it. I’m capable of the same! I am to love people as Jesus did, which is to say, as they are and not just as I’d like them to be. I am to be sensitive and obedient to the Holy Spirit as He prompts me to repentance for my own sins, and let that keep me humble. The phrase, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” is as important as it is true. Trying to shame people into repentance and salvation never works!

Father, thank You for Your amazing grace. Help me never forget how dependent on it I am, so that I may be an open channel of that grace to all I encounter. May Your love and Your Spirit, operating through me, draw many to repentance and faith, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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