Friday, September 17, 2010

My sin is way better than your sin

Today I wanted to look at a verse from Psalm 130 and share with you some thoughts that occurred to me while I was reading and studying it this morning.  The Psalm is part of today's daily lectionary and can be found here:
Before I get to the psalm, let me tell you about the conversation I had with Charlie as I was dropping off the boys at preschool today.  As we were walking in, I noticed Jack was a little quiet (Quiet is not Jack's default position and I was pretty sure he was nervous about maybe getting a shot at his Dr.'s appointment today) So I said something to him about his Star Wars lunchbox, which did the trick - got him talking about Anakin Skywalker and getting the bad guys.  
What I said to him was something to the effect of, 'Jack, that is a REALLY cool lunch box you have there'.  Now Charlie, walking just a little ahead of us, heard all of this.  He stopped, turned around and said, 'Do you like my lunch box too, Daddy?'  And I responded to him by saying, 'your's is PRETTY cool too'.  
Of course, Charlie immediately caught that I said Jack's lunch box was Really cool and I said his was only Pretty cool.  So, cutting right to the chase, he said, 'Daddy, which lunch box do you like better, my Spiderman one or the Star Wars one?  This posed a real dilemma for me, I didn't want to lie to him, and I know he will hear my answer as saying something about how much I care about him, not his lunch box, but I really don't like Spiderman that much.  So I said, 'I really like both lunch boxes, but you know that Star Wars is my favorite'.
Well, Charlie held it together admirably, but he clearly didn't like the answer - I think his spirits were buoyed by the hope that maybe Jack might be getting a shot at the Dr.'s office.  But whatever, the reason I tell that story is that I think it is indicative of something that we all do.  Something that comes so naturally to us that we have to work consciously and diligently to avoid it.  But I think we need to avoid it at all costs.  
It seems it is in our very nature to seek to compare ourselves against one another.  Charlie and his brother's lunch box, all of us with coworkers or on an athletic field - or in the gym.  The list could go on forever.  
And if we did list things out extensively it would most certainly include comparing our sins against one another.  Of course in this comparison, like in golf you are going for the lower score.  The 'smaller', more socially acceptable sins, the better.  We allow ourselves to think - just like the Pharisee looking at the tax collector - that 'at least I am not like that guy' or 'I know I am not perfect, but can you believe her?'  
This is a dangerous and unfaithful game we play.  The third verse of Psalm 130 says it as plainly as can be:

3If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
4But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.

The point isn't that we aren't supposed to see other people's sins or that we are supposed to pretend they are perfect or that we are supposed to ignore the sins.  The point is this:
1. We are all in the same boat - 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'.  I might be able to gain some (incredibly) small measure of solace if you got a 40 on a test, but if I got a 45 we are both still in the same situation.  We have both failed, I won't get any bonus points for the 5 more questions I got right.  Our lives are not graded on a curve or on a sliding scale, but rather on a pass/fail basis and on our own we are all on the wrong side of the line.  It is only Jesus Christ that can change that situation for us.
2.  When we look at others and judge ourselves against them we are putting our focus and our attention in the wrong place and on the wrong person.  Our eyes should be be fixed on Jesus Christ the author and perfecter of our faith and salvation.  We shouldn't be looking at how we stack up against those around us or if our sins are better or worse than theirs.  We have sinned, we have failed, we have fallen short.  We are helpless and powerless to do anything about it.
Instead we need to focus on Jesus Christ and the distance that he covered between us and God by his sacrifice on the cross.  
It doesn't matter what kind of lunch box you carry or what sin you are carrying around as baggage in your life.  You need - I need Jesus Christ to take it away.  I need Jesus Christ to pass the test and so do you.  What a relief!  What a blessing!  What a gift!  
Jesus Christ has wiped away all of our failings, removed the weight our sin and deemed us pure, acceptable and holy.  We have passed by the grace of God and sacrifice of his Son.  Amen.

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