A Most Disgusting and Deadly Disease

“‘Cause we’re all guilty of the same things. We think the thoughts whether or not we see them through.” – Relient K

It’s disgusting how self-righteous we can be. As Relient K says “Sometimes we live for no one but ourselves.”

I’m not going to lie, I’m fairly exercised.  Humans can be really nice people, but each one of us tends to think we are so much better than our neighbor.

I remember watching nearly the entire nation want to crucify Olympian Ryan Lochte for a moment of immaturity. I’m sure you remember that. One bad decision, with several apologies and a determination to make things right.  There are many other people in the news every day making worse decisions than Ryan – illegal decisions – without any apology, and we want to persecute Ryan when he didn’t even commit a crime. That’s right, no crime against America or Brasil.

Yep, it’s true, we wanted to ban him from the Olympics, send protesters, and send nasty tweets. Yes, he lied, but then he confessed about his moment of immaturity, and his lie.

Have you ever told a lie? And apologized for it?

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Let’s not forget Olympian Gabby Douglas forgetting to put her hand over her heart during a trophy ceremony, probably because she was nervous, not to mention the other emotions and thoughts which surely go through one’s head during such an event. However, we wanted to send Gabby nasty tweets as well. I don’t mind admitting that most of the time I do not put my hand over my heart during the national anthem at a sports event. I’m not a fan of it.  Throw a tomato at me if you wish.

Although Gabby’s actions could hardly be considered a “mistake”, have you ever made a mistake?

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I remember when a local Oklahoma man was forced out of a ballgame by an off-duty cop for not standing for the National Anthem. On August 26, 2016, prior to an NFL preseason game, San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted not to stand during the playing  of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Of course, controversy ensued, and people got angry. Because that’s certainly worth getting angry about…

One of Colin’s reasons for not standing? “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

It seems, to me, like a pointless way to take a stand for your beliefs, but I must say that Colin has a good point. People get away with worse things than not standing for the national anthem. And that’s not good!While the NFL does not require its players to stand for the National Anthem, the Federal government says that Americans should stand,  but has no penalty for those who do not. Even if Colin’s actions could be considered a mistake, have you ever made a mistake, no matter how big it was? I have.

People who commit murder should do their time in the clinker, and we should be upset when that does not happen. Justice should prevail.

People who do not stand for the national anthem should be left alone, and we should not be phased by it.

But, we are so self-righteous (and politically driven) that we want to clobber those who don’t participate in the national anthem. That’s not even a crime!

Though I can think of a plethora of bigger problems in the world (even though none of these things are really “problems”), we want to cry out against these things because, well, we’re better than those people…aren’t we?

We should all be reminded often of Jesus’ condemnation of self-righteousness was especially harsh in His treatment of the leadership of His time, and it’s just as prevalent today. Six times in Matthew 23, Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees for rigidly adhering to their legalistic traditions in order to make themselves look better to others. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18 was specifically told by Jesus to “some who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt”. The Pharisees assumed that their acceptance with God was based on their own good actions, whereas the tax collector recognized that there was nothing good in himself that would cause God to approve of him. Over and over again in the Gospels, Jesus clashes with the Pharisees and scribes about true righteousness. He also spends a great deal of time and energy (John 15 for example) warning His own disciples about the dangers of self-righteousness, making it clear that, without Him, they were nothing.

I honestly wonder how many evangelicals understand that, apart from Christ, we are nothing?

Everyone uses this phrase often: “He/She has issues” or “Wow, they have issues“. Most of the time, we say something along these lines in a derogatory tone, because we’re really thinking “I’m glad I’m not like that.” Aren’t we? As if we don’t have our own “issues”. Once again, that’s like the Pharisee saying “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers…” and then starts naming off the good deeds he’s done. He thinks he’s so great. I wonder how much different our everyday lives would be if we began loving those around us more, and began saying, like the other guy, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Here’s a hard thought for all of us Christians: how often do we ever stop to think that…without Christ, no one including me, and including you –  is any better than Hitler? Or a rapist? Or an adulterer? Or a homosexual? Or a transgender? Or…you name it?

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Yep, it’s true, without Christ, you, me, and our neighbor is no better than Charles Manson.

Paul’s treatment of self-righteousness is no less scathing than Jesus’ was. Paul began his great argument in Romans for the grace of God by condemning the self-righteous trust that the Jews had in circumcision (Romans 2). He follows that up in chapter 10, saying that the Jews tried to gain acceptance with God based on their own righteousness, demonstrating ignorance of the true righteousness of God that we see in Romans 10. His conclusion is that people are made “better” (righteous) when they rely on the person and work of Christ, instead of relying on their own good actions. It’s not based on anything we have done or could do to earn it or deserve it, because even with Christ, Christians are, humanly speaking, no better than anyone else. The difference is that Christians are given access to eternal life and want to obey the Bible.

I also want to mention something else to all of my non-Christian friends who are reading this. If you have met professing Christians who have acted like they are more important than you, don’t believe for a second that’s the normal Christian attitude. Please don’t blame God, or the Bible, for the actions of a few, or many, professing Christians who have treated you unkindly. As a friend of mine said, “The media tells you that Christians hate gay people, but yet you cannot find one Christ follower who supports this claim.” This is very true, because if you haven’t yet been told, there are a lot of people who profess to be a Christian and yet consistently speak hatefully toward others. True Christians love other Christians, and everyone else. We don’t hate anyone.

So, the next time any of us think it’s ok to stick our nose up at others, maybe we should think about our own sins first. And for Christians, after thinking about our own sins first, we should then remind ourselves of the grace that God showed to us even while we were His enemies (Romans 5).

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The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him…And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” – John 8 (emphasis mine)

Imperfect people (the crowd) brought an imperfect person (the adulterous woman) into the street and were gathered around her ready to kill her because of her sins. What did Jesus do? He told them that if any of them had never sinned, then that person could step forward to throw a stone. Of course, everyone began to leave, because they all knew they were sinners, too! And then Jesus told the woman that He forgave her and to not commit adultery anymore.

Whoa.

And what we’ve been striving for has turned into nothing more than bodies limp on the floor, victims of falling short, we kiss goodbye the cheek of our true love.” Once again, poignant lyrics that accurately describe the state of the world in which we live, even in the church environment.

There will always be someone else to whom we can compare ourselves. If I measure myself by the standards of many in today’s culture, Ronald Reagan was a much better person than I. And in some ways, I wholeheartedly agree! However, just because he did a lot of good things in his realm of life, that doesn’t mean he was a better person than myself. And just because I’ve done a lot of good things in my own realm of life, doesn’t mean I’m a better person than he. We’re both human and we’re both sinners. He did the best he knew how in his sphere, and I’m doing the best I know how in mine. And yes, I realize that Charles Manson actually murdered people, and I have not, however, in God’s eyes, all humans are equal sinners. You can try all you want to argue with that, but you’ll never win. Just read the Bible instead of Jesus Calling.

Ryan Lochte is a sinner, Gabby Douglas is a sinner, Colin Kaepernick is a sinner. Ronald Reagan was a sinner. I’m a sinner. You’re a sinner. Homosexuals are sinners. Jesus gave his life for sinners. Jesus forgives sinners. Jesus shows mercy, and gives grace to those who acknowledge they are sinners and rely on His perfection – not their own imperfection – for eternal life.

After all, remember what the Apostle Paul told Christians?

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. – 1 Timothy 1 (emphasis mine)

Wow!

If only we would all remember that we’re all guilty of the same thing. Sin. And sin’s biggest helper is self-righteousness. It’s most disgusting. And because it will damn people to Hell if not subdued by the grace of God, it’s deadly for eternity.

Do you consider yourself the worst of all sinners?

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