- Steve Brown, Three Free Sins
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I’m one of those preachers and I ought to just own up. So, here goes…
“Hello. My name is Mike, and I am self-righteous.”
That would be a great way for me to introduce myself at every Christian gathering. Why? Because self-righteousness is my deepest sin (and yours), my greatest sin, my most unrecognized sin, and the sin of which I ought to be most afraid. I need to be reminded of this continually.
Self-righteousness is not something I do. I express it in my words, attitudes, and actions, but those expressions reveal what I am. It is my nature, part of my default position as a sinful human being.
And the problem is, it is one aspect of my sinfulness that actually has a tendency to get worse when I become a Christian.
I have found the way.
I have discovered the answer.
I have trusted God.
I have seen the light and embraced the truth.
Oh, what dangerous ground the new Christian stands on!
But that is just the beginning. The really insidious part about this condition is that the more I go on as a Christian: the more I grow in knowledge, the more I become integrated into the Christian community, the more my lifestyle conforms to the expectations of my particular Christian group, the more separated I get from “the world” and its ways, the more I learn to act, speak, dress, and think like a Christian, the more my capacity for self-righteousness increases.
The more I develop opinions about what is right, the greater my tendency to see you as someone who is wrong.
The more I become an insider, the less chance I have of relating properly to you as an outsider.
The more I delight in what is true and good, the more disdain I tend to develop for you, the one who can’t see the error and immorality of his ways.
The farther along this path I go, the more I develop “hardening of the categories” and my opinions turn to convictions that easily turn into thoughts of condemnation toward others.
And I forget.
I forget that this whole thing is not about me finding the way and taking it. It’s about Someone who lifted me up out of the miry pit and set my feet upon a rock.
It is not about me embracing Christ and his salvation. It’s about how I was drowning and how he reached down from on high and drew me out of mighty waters.
It is not about how I chose or exercised my faith in God. It’s about how I was dead in sin, and he breathed life into me and raised me up into a new creation.
It is not about a “Christian life” of climbing some spiritual ladder of increasing sanctity. It is about coming back to the Gospel every day and reliving my baptism, dying and being raised with Christ. It is about coming to hear the Word and receive the Body and Blood in each worship service because there is no other nourishment that can sustain me in the wilderness of life.
It is about realizing how loved I am, and how unworthy of that love!
It is about taking the next logical step — if I, so unworthy, am so loved, how then can I possibly withhold love from my neighbor, no matter how unworthy?
It is about me realizing the sobering truth of Romans 2:1 — the very point at which I judge others is the point at which I myself am vulnerable to sin.
Christian, be afraid. Be very afraid, most afraid of this deadliest of sins.
And pray for me, who has no right whatsoever to write these words to you.