So here we are considering our own deck of index cards..the good, the bad and the ugly. If left at just that the news would likely not be very good for many of us. But I have to tell you I am of the strong opinion that one of the greatest deceptions ever promulgated on to the human race is this thought that worthiness was a condition for a relationship with God. The belief that some people are more worthy than others. That indeed the not so charitable index cards of our life would be used against us in some final and eternal judgment of damnation. That, it is quite possible if you had a slightly checkered past you would be placed on the ‘naughty’ list with very little hope of making it to the ‘nice list’. As if we were 5-year olds hoping that Santa would not be looking too closely at all those little tantrums and disobedience we keep track of on our little ‘self-worth’ score card. This is the evil one working at its best. As soon as we might have the slightest positive thought about our own value, satan quickly reminds us of some petty put down we may have suffered in the past, ‘Really? You think you can make the varsity?’ Or maybe, ‘What makes you think she would go out with you?’ Reinforced each time we have to walk past those first six rows of the first class section and down to seat 28E next to the toilet. That little march certainly ‘keeps us in our place’. This naturalistic phenomenon of ‘survival of the the fittest’ is pounded into our psyche from the moment we realize we have a psyche. There is this sub-conscious, and at times, very conscious tallying of where we might presently be positioned in comparison to anyone else that might be vying for whatever it is we desire at the moment. A constant comparison of where we stand in the pecking order, or the food chain, or the hierarchy, which always manifests itself in the mantra of self-doubt, ‘Am I good enough?’
I have seen it in some people I know very well, some very close friends and family members. I have seen it in myself. It keeps good people separated from God and His church. It is devil-work. It is something that takes a long time to let go of because it goes against everything we are taught about right and wrong, of crime and punishment and of getting what you deserve. It is so entangled into our culture that the church has used it for centuries to literally scare the hell into millions of its members. A complex system of sins develops – original, venial, and mortal, and different levels of placement in the afterlife perpetuate this very human desire for a place for everything and everything in its place. That doesn’t sound like the Jesus I have come to know.
Jesus commissioned the founders of the church with these words, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Mark 28:19, 20) And then satan twists those parting words into a beauty contest devoid of the love with which God Himself created each and every one of us. Sure, if left only with the great scorecard of our lives none of us would have any hope of standing in the presence of God. We are beat over the head continuously with these constant reminders of our failures and lack of worthiness, so much so that a lot of good people just give up and condemn themselves to an eternity of consequence. But we are not obligated to believe this lie because of the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Great News is that, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.‘ This is why it is called ‘The Good News’. Take a look at this list of past sinners, sinners that sinned greater than probably most of us:
- This general had one of his most loyal officers murdered so that he could have sex with his wife – King David
- This man brutally murdered another man in retaliation for a beating the victim he killed gave one of his countrymen – Moses
- This woman was an adulteress and likely a prostitute – Mary Magdalene
- This man failed to come to the aid of, and betrayed his dearest friend and teacher at the moment of his greatest need, and actually denied knowing him on three separate occasions – Peter
- This man persecuted, prosecuted and had people incarcerated and put to death because of their religious beliefs – Paul
- This man extorted money from the poor, committed fraud and stole from his own kinsmen – Matthew
- This man was a terrorist and likely a murderer of those who cooperated with the ruling government – Simon the Zealot
- When called by God to deliver a message of hope, this man ran away in the opposite direction with no intentions of obeying – Jonah
The history of our faith is full of lost souls, sinners, that certainly were not worthy of the glorious grace ultimately gifted to each of them. They are no different than you and I. Jesus came for all of us – each and every one of us. He came to teach all of us. He came to demonstrate God’s love for all of us, regardless. When he died on that cross it was for each and every one of us, regardless of what our sin score card was, is or will be. That is the Good News we Christians are commissioned to spread. I love this verse from Psalm 103:12 …“as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”…and indeed has made us worthy.
Now what is our response to this inconceivable bit of life changing Good News? Do we just sit back and bask in the after glow of this blessing of all blessings? Do we continue to sin without any fear of consequence? As St Paul says, “God Forbid!” And I leave you with his follow up to consider, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.'” Eph. 2:8-10