"Basically, all of us start out in identical conditions...we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one...whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place!...We’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else. Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin."
Romans 3:9-20 MSG (edited for length)
In fact the most impactful verse I have encountered yet in my quest to read through the Bible this year!
This scripture is it!
This verse should hit us right upside our self-righteous heads and wreck all of our Holier than thou thinking and living! Hopefully it does what is intended and wakes us up to reality. All of us are simply people in need of Grace and forgiveness!
Currently we reside in a very volatile, fragile world. Our society is in constant danger of erupting into the chaos of flames like a lit match by a tinderpile. One single accusing pointed finger or word spoken poisoned by anger instead of grace and the spark is ignited, a wildfire looms.
"Whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us"
Too often I hear Bible scriptures used like weapons against certain people or groups of people. Scriptures delicatley and purposely pick out to expose someones wrongs and thus it is used to "instruct" them in how one person believes God intends for another person to live. Perhaps we see someone that we judge to be living in sin, or simply our interpretations of sin and we trot out a list of verses to convict them, correct them and instruct them.
Effective? Hardly! Loving and compassionate? Try cold and calculated!
When you look at Scripture it is important to look at the audience the instruction or the rebukes were intended for.
Some of Jesus' harshest words, criticisms and judgements were directed directly at the religious leaders, the "insiders", the church. And some of His most inspiring examples and words of grace, comfort and forgiveness were saved for the "wretched" world all around him. Inexplicably to the religious leadership of the time, the tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners were the recipients of Jesus' patience, compassion, understanding and encouragement. Jesus viewed them like sheep without a Shepherd, like orphaned children without parents. The religious elite however, are the ones God saw more as wolves in sheep's clothing. Powerful metaphors of the way God often views the relationship between the churched and the "outside world".
The often times unforgiving, unmerciful and yet in the strictest sense, law abiding religious leaders or zealots caught the brunt of Jesus ire. "You weigh people down with heavy burdens that you yourselves are unwilling to carry!" Was Jesus' charge against them.
So often when I read Biblical warnings of impending judgement and destruction I view it as the church being the recipients and not the "sinners" or outside world. Very often that assessment is true.
I believe God views the whole thing like we the church should know better. Not only do we know more or less morally what we are to do but we also know better in the sense that we have been "lost" too. We should be even more merciful, sympathetic and empathetic to those who may be struggling because we have been there too. We should recall what our struggle was like and extend the same grace that we so undeservingly received.
As a Christian I am no better than anyone else. Like this scripture states, "we are all in the same boat", or hand basket as they say.
First and foremost when we read the Holy scriptures we must remember that it is speaking to us the reader. Yet what we turn around and do is take what we are reading and apply it to other people, to other groups. We see it speaking about our opponents or our enemies and having nothung to do with ourselves. However, if we are not reading it, digesting it and then applying it to our own lives first then we are doing it wrong. If we are not allowing Gods words to challenge us and allowing it to make us better people but are only reading it and using it to challenge, even oppose other people, then we are being hypocritical and misguided.
I hear it thrown around a lot that we are to "love the sinner but hate the sin". I have yet to find the verse that says this specifically. Why are we often so much more concerned about another person's sin than our own? In fact, many times we hate someone else's sin more then we do our own sins. We have that backwards. We must confront our own struggles and our own garbage first. Then when we have been honest with ourselves, it will give us understanding of where other people are at. Thus we can be compassionate and merciful towards them, their sins and their struggles. It is so much more effective and meaningful because we then "get it", we have been there in the depths as well and we have fought our way out too.
"We are all in the same boat."
Yet, because of their own misguided hatred of someone else's sin many people pour their energy and passions into combating or eradicating that particular sin from society. However, we can not legislate someone's morality, but we can reach a persons heart!
With that in mind there are people who utilize that same energy and passion that others do in "combating sin" to focus instead on the person. With empathy and understanding for that person they are able to love them, not overwhelm them. A more effective approach wouldn't you agree? A more compassionate and loving approach as well!
"Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done."
Romans 2:1-2 MSG
In these times when this world appears to be so divided and everyone wants to blame everyone else, it is important to remember that we are all complicit "in everyone else's sin".