I’ve been doing a study lately about attitudes, specifically the kind of attitudes Christians should have concerning such important things like sin, worship, or money. This is all in preparation for a Bible class series I’m teaching soon, and one of the topics I decided to add was studying the type of attitude we should have towards ourselves.
There’s no question that God has a clear standard and that we as sinners have broken it. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and Romans 6:23 adds, “the wages of sin is death.” This is not necessarily some form of self-deprecation where we demean ourselves to the point of feeling worthless, but that we recognize that our God is perfect and he has defined what true righteousness is and that we fall miserably short of that standard. He has asked that those who carry his name remain holy (1 Peter 1:16), requires us to have a proper and humble view of who we are and where we’ve come from, and to remember that it is God who justifies (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
I think the dangerous part begins when we attempt to change God’s standard, either by making it easier for ourselves or by making it harder for others. Sometimes we decide to create our own form of righteousness based on what we believe is fair or by comparing ourselves to others who we believe are somehow worse than we are. God, on the other hand, doesn’t see it that way. He doesn’t create a hierarchy of sin like we do so we come off looking better than those in the world. He doesn’t keep track of church attendance or works completed and say, “That guy is really dedicated, I’ll make sure to give him an extra portion of grace!” Instead, God examines our heart, our attitude towards self and decides whether we truly love him or not.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had this problem, and sadly, it’s still a bit of a problem today. As the religious elite, the Pharisees made sure to change God’s standard to suit their needs. They would pray openly, fast painfully, and brag loudly about their knowledge of God’s word, all the while holding everyone else to a standard or level righteousness that they themselves were unable to fulfill (Matthew 23:1-7). But Jesus could see right to their heart and knew that their attitude was all wrong. They looked for reasons to condemn instead of ways to show love and grace. They did everything they could to prevent people from ever experiencing the true, merciful God.
And so it is today. Some in the church treat people in the world as though Christians have a lock on some religious club and they can’t get in unless they follow the rules. We can’t go around shutting people out of the kingdom of God because we falsely assume their sin is worse than ours. We can’t take the job of judgment away from God, and anyways, that’s a very dangerous choice to make (Matthew 7:1-2).
Jesus was our physical manifestation of righteousness and he didn’t treat sinners with contempt and disdain. Instead, he showed grace to the penitent and offered up hope for those who were searching for the truth. If we are followers of Christ, shouldn’t we do the same?
Let’s ask ourselves, what can we do to help others come to know God and his love for them? Let’s remember that Jesus died for WHOEVER would believe in him (John 3:16), and that we shouldn’t put a stumbling block or any form of discouragement in front of anyone searching for the truth of the gospel. We should make every effort to live up to God’s standard of righteousness and encourage and assist others in doing the same.