Often, the posture of our heart betrays our failure to appreciate undeserved grace, especially when we think we are better than others because we don’t commit “bad” sins. We reason that murder and rape are worse than lying and coveting, and we despise those whose sins we deem worse.
The problem is that comparing ourselves to other sinners is like measuring one’s health in comparison to an invalid (2 Cor. 10:12). Although one might appear better or worse when such an imperfect standard is used, when Christ, the true measure of health, is used, the seriousness of every person’s sickness due to sin is clearly displayed.
Christ lumps the gossips and covetous together with the murderous and ruthless as all deserving death (Matt. 5:21, 22, 28; Rom. 1:28–32). Christ, as our standard, exposes the heinousness and folly of sin, however “small” the sin appears. Adam “only” ate fruit, but the consequences show that behind every sin is a foolish attempt to overthrow God. Seen from God’s perspective, no sin is preferable.
Let us therefore not cheapen God’s grace and dishonor Christ’s sacrifice by underplaying the extent of the sickness that afflicts the human soul (Jer. 6:14). If we forget that we are equally affected by sin, we will be quick to condemn and slow to forgive those who don’t rise to our faulty standard. Conversely, when we grasp the depth of the sickness, we will better appreciate God’s grace in Christ and find joy in forgiving.
Knowing ourselves as debtors is critical to being ministers of reconciliation. The unforgiving servant considered himself a better debtor than his own debtor because he didn’t realize the extent of his forgiven debt and thus failed to extend forgiveness (Matt. 18:21–35). Paul grasped the depth of both his sin and God’s grace, so he joyfully proclaimed forgiveness in Christ (1 Tim. 1:15–17). Similarly, Daniel didn’t consider himself superior to his brethren when he prayed, but he acknowledged the common struggle with sin and need for grace (Dan. 9:3–19). A self-righteous attitude robs us of compassion and makes it impossible to pray genuinely, “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).
When we see ourselves for who we truly are, sinners saved by grace, we are able to acknowledge one another’s failures or growth without considering the other inferior or superior. Rather than being standoffish, behaving as though we are in a race to see who cleans himself first and best, we are able to join each other’s struggle with sin by forgiving, encouraging, and praying for each other.
Everything that might give us cause to be puffed up is freely received (1 Cor. 4:6–7). Being in Christ equalizes believers and is God’s doing, and it eliminates grounds for boasting or despising others (1 Cor. 1:30–31; 2 Cor. 10:7).