Before I was humbled I went astray, but now I keep your word.
As Paul was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Sometimes we may really need our comeuppance; we may need to be thrown to the ground and asked, “Why are you doing this?” But that does not often happen. More often we are able to go our way with impunity, living as we please and holding to our own particular biases and favoritisms.
Truly, however, we all need to fall to our knees in true repentance and contrition, for we all hold to ugly biases, favoritisms and prejudices. The worst of these spring from convictions of righteousness, and the justice of our cause. We strain against the restraints of judgmentalism, and prejudice only to discover that in our pride for being open to all we have actually embraced a more ugly discrimination: we judge others as more judgmental than ourselves.
Let me illustrate:
The Sunday school teacher was teaching the children the story of the Pharisee and the sinner praying in the temple. She told the children how the Pharisee was proud of himself and bragging to God about his way of life, “I thank you, God, that I am not like this sinner…”. The sinner was sorry for his sins and prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
The Sunday School teacher said, “Let’s thank God now that we are not like that Pharisee.”
And we’re thankful that we’re not like that teacher. Ugh!
Jesus taught that the sinner who begged for God’s mercy went home justified. He leaned on God’s grace. He didn’t need to be taken down; he already knew he was down. What about you? Do you need God’s word of grace and forgiveness? Or do you need to be called to repentance? When we discover the depth of our own culpability we will surely repent. Thanks be to God that calls us to himself even before we realize we are in such desperate need.