It was Global Weekend at Church this weekend, and worship songs were sung in 14 different languages across all of our church’s different campuses. As I stood there in service with my arms lifted high, I could not help but be overcome with emotion. “This is what Heaven will be like,” I thought. People of all different colors, shapes, ages, genders and sizes coming together for a singular purpose: to worship the King of Kings. In that room were people of many different backgrounds, but there was one thing each person in that room definitely had in common: sin.
Sin has pervaded each and every one of our lives. At some point in life we have bullied, manipulated and controlled. We have had our hearts set on power and control. We have made another person look bad in order to advance ourselves. We have disobeyed our parents, lusted after another woman’s husband, and coveted our neighbor’s things. We have aborted babies inside the womb. We have sexually assaulted one another. We have judged a person based on the color of their skin. None of us are immune to this disease that has poisoned our souls.
And the irony is that when it comes to our own sin, or the sin of those we love, we plead for mercy; but when it comes to sin done against us or done against those we love, we beg for justice to be served. This is the hypocrisy that is in the heart of every man and woman. And this is the hypocrisy that Jesus exposed during His ministry here on the Earth.
When you have not been reconciled to Jesus, you look at sin in degrees. “Well, at least I have never murdered someone. At least I have never raped someone. At least I have never…” and the list goes on. We have a Pharisaical tendency to rate ourselves in accordance to what we haven’t done. But when Jesus walked the earth, He wiped away this kind of thinking, because GRACE calls us to a higher standard.
Now instead of just murder being sin, hating someone in your heart is also sin.
Now instead of just adultery being wrong, lusting after another person is also sin.
Now instead of just loving our neighbors, we are called to love our enemies, too.
Now instead of eye for an eye, we are called to forgive those who persecute us, seventy times seven times.
Jesus levels the playing field for anyone who thinks that they are “better than” another person because their sin looks different than that person’s.
Just last week I wrestled with lustful thoughts. Just this week I wrestled with hate in my own heart. Each and every day I battle unforgiveness, pride, worry, and disobedience. Every day I recognize that I fall short. But God in His mercy extends His grace toward me, and He calls me righteous.
Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was put on the Cross because of my sin. My sin drove those nails into His hands. My sin drove that crown of thorns into His temples. My sin pierced His side. MY SIN. And yes, yours did, too. But if I spend so much time focusing on YOUR sin, then I will never recognize the weight of the sin in my own life, nor the grace and freedom that have so covered me!
I love the way Corrie ten Boom phrases it in The Hiding Place, when comparing her own selfishness to the sadism and murder of the Nazis who had imprisoned her:
“Oh this was the great ploy of Satan in that kingdom of his: to display such blatant evil that one could almost believe one’s own secret sins didn’t matter.”
You see, once you realize what Jesus rescued you from, and once you realize the weight of your own sin, it makes it a little harder to cast judgment on another. For even if my sin seems “trivial,” the cost of that sin is just as grave: Jesus’ very life.
When I read the stories of the extraordinary men and women of the Bible, I am filled with hope.
Paul, the man responsible for murdering countless Jews, was saved and used by God to write a huge portion of the New Testament.
Peter, the man who lied and denied knowing Jesus, was used by God to preach the Gospel to the Jews.
Sarah, the woman who abused her slave to the point of making her run away, was the woman who carried Isaac, the promised child in her belly.
Rahab, the woman who prostituted herself, saved the Israelites and became the great-great-great (and lots more greats) grandmother of Jesus. Her name is one of 4 women’s names included in His genealogy.
David, the king who raped Bathsheba and had her husband murdered, was called by God “a man after God’s own heart.” He wrote many of the Psalms that have helped me to rise above my own sin. The Psalms that have helped me when I have been afraid. The Psalms that I have meditated on and clung to in the storms of depression. As if that wasn’t enough, this man was intentionally included in the lineage of Jesus Christ, along with a whole bunch of other imperfect, sexually promiscuous, sinning individuals.
If Jesus was so terrified of our sin, don’t you think the accounts of these heroes of our faith would not be included in the Bible?
There is forgiveness for sin – for all sin. In fact, it is more dangerous to have a problem with “trivial” or “secret” sin, because you can think that you are doing just fine, but inside of you, that sin - that cancer of sorts - is eating you alive.
When the Pharisees threw the woman caught in adultery at Jesus’ feet, asking Him what to do with her, He replied to them by saying, “Let him who is without sin among you throw the first stone.” And one by one, from the oldest to the youngest, her accusers walked away.
Friends, I have absolutely no room to be throwing stones, because I’m far from perfect. My heart and my message has to stay the same: that Jesus’ love is bigger than any of our sin, and yet when He gets ahold of our lives, He loves us too much to let us stay in our sin.
As we sang worship at Church this weekend, I looked around the room at all the people around me. Every person around me definitely had sin in common. But there was another thing we all had in common too: we were forgiven. We were loved. We were wanted. And we were worth sacrificing everything for!
My prayer is that as we take that truth in, and as we begin to understand what it truly means, that we as believers will fall to our knees in worship, and that we will be unleashed to love people and to forgive people – even those who hurt us.
What stones are you holding today? At whom are you wanting to throw them? Can I gently nudge you to let those stones fall at Jesus’ feet as you remember your own struggle with sin? I have had to set down many stones in the last couple of days. And I have also had to be reminded that the same amazing love that God has for me is the same amazing love that God has for those who hurt me. Let’s not allow unforgiveness or bitterness to keep us in bondage any longer, for Jesus came to set the captives free. He came to set us free.
Let’s set down our stones and pick up His grace instead.
Love big, forgive big, and be free, my friend.