All Unclean, All Sinners
As a kid, my religious culture viewed buying a newspaper on Sunday, going to the movies, dancing, playing cards, smoking, and drinking as sin. In order not to be a “guilty sinner,” it was important to obey these standards. Of course, those who were outside our group were definitely labeled “sinners.”
The idea behind these standards was that they would protect us from breaking commandments like “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” and other commands against the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh that would be fueled by the movies and dancing. The problem is not that the standards were too strict, but that they didn’t cover nearly enough or go far enough.
For example, Jesus said in his famous Sermon on the Mount that we’re breaking the seventh commandment when we simply look at a woman with lust, and we would if we could. And this is all happening on the inside, in our hearts. He says we break the sixth commandment against murder the second we get so angry that we hurl against them an abusive label, like “You idiot!”
Now in his Sermon Jesus was only making what God through Moses made clear in the tenth commandment. Coveting isn’t an outward action, but inward and it indicates that the other nine don’t just involve physical acts but what’s going on inside. This is the point: We’re all “sinners.” And those of us who think we can stand in God’s presence and claim our religious ethics and scrupulous keeping of laws or any standards become guilty of the sin that caused Lucifer to fall from heaven. The Law was given to make it plain as day that we are all sinners, not for us to try and obey in order to be righteous before God by our own self effort.
It’s this basic point that led Paul, after confronting Peter when he withdrew from forgiven fellow brothers and sisters around Christ’s table, to remind him about the only way that we have a right to sit at the table. And it’s not by trying to obey any standards of conduct, including the one that Moses gave to the Jews.
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a person is not justified by keeping the law, but by faith in Jesus, the Messiah. So we ,too, have put our faith in the Messiah, Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in the Messiah and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no flesh and blood human will ever be justified.” Galatians 3:15-16
Arrogant, legalistic religious folks always hurl abusive labels at those who don’t conform to their in-group rules. Then those who oppose them voraciously claim that they are in the right and hurl abuse right back. The irony is that the only way that any of us can get to heaven is to stop claiming our own self-righteousness and admit that we are all “sinners,” guilty and unclean before a pure and holy God. This is the only way to believe and receive God’s free gift of forgiveness and salvation based on his Son’s death and resurrection.
LORD, on both the left and the right abuse and accusations fly. This Easter week use us as your children to get across the message that we’re all like the thieves on the cross, guilty as sin, but one joined Jesus in heaven that day because he admitted his sin and trusted King Jesus.
For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!