We don’t like to talk sin… I get it – it’s hard to accept that core Christian teaching that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We don’t see all sin as equal, yet it doesn’t matter. The great equalizer with sin is that it leaves us equally short of God’s glory…
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
There are two images we need to destroy relating to holiness and righteousness in Christianity. The first is the image that some people have about Christians being more righteous than others. The second is the image that Christians have about themselves as being more righteous than others.
Jesus didn’t come for the righteous. He came for the sinners. He came for you and for me. And if you’re righteous, he didn’t come for you. In fact, this would be a good time to humble ourselves and admit that we are sinners and not righteous. Yes, God has made us saints in his eyes. Yes, the Holy Spirit is refining us every day to conform us to the image of Jesus. And yes, we are still sinners. We’re strugglers.
Let’s admit it so that there is no air of superiority or unanswered question. Let’s not go from being strugglers to smugglers. If we claim to not be sinners, we end up smuggling our sinfulness around and then we get to add ‘hypocrite’ to our business cards.
Jesus would eat with me because I am a sinner. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I prove it to myself every day. And as much as I don’t like sinning, I sure like that Jesus came for me.
And he will eat with you because you are also a sinner. I beg you not to deny it. You see, those who denied that they were sinners were ‘the righteous’ in our story above. They thought they were good enough on their own. They thought they were better than others (in this case, the tax collectors who were dishonest and who exploited others). Yes, I like to think that I am not an exploiter, nor am I a pattern liar leveraging my power over others. Am I, however, better than those who do?
This is where Romans 3:23 is helpful to us. ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ My sin is different from the sin of others, and we judge sin based on our personal moral framework (which tells us that murder is worse than shoplifting). I’m not tackling those nuances. I’m simply pointing out that lying on your taxes, lying to your parents, murdering your enemy, and holding grudges against your ex are all sin. Whether we think sin is all equal or that some sins are worse, there is still some equality in sin:
The great equalizer with sin is that it leaves us equally short of God’s glory.
And so without admitting that you are a murderer, I’m asking you to admit that you’re a sinner… like me. Jesus would like to eat with you, and he prefers to eat with people who know themselves as well as he knows them.