He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
“The good news is that Jesus doesn’t give side hugs. He always invites me into the fullness of his embrace. He’s never unsure of what to do with me. Because he knows me, I don’t have to hide.”
Sammy Rhodes, This Is Awkward
As a member of the seemingly self-sufficient, busy college student population that makes up my Christian college's campus, I think that I must be pretty put together. My ever-elongating list of commitments each has its respective time slot that it is allowed to occupy on its prescribed day. However, on more days than not, it is my long list of academic and extracurricular commitments that the Lord uses to show me how reactive and devoid of grace I really am. I wish that I could say that it is natural for me to respond to people in love, rather than feelings of anger and bitterness. I wish that I could say that when one of my friends lovingly confronts me with some way that I have hurt or mistreated them, that I responded to them in humility and repentance. I wish it were natural to acknowledge what I feel like I’m constantly working to disprove- it is really hard for me to be a good person. On the outside and the inside.
But I am very thankful that the Lord does not just ask for good deeds. He already knows our hearts, our desires, our failures, our selfishness. When we are adopted into God’s family, he has already given us the grace to acknowledge how natural sin is to us, the grace of washing us every time we fail, as well as the grace to grow in becoming more like Jesus so that sin becomes less and less natural. We still may fail, but he has already provided. In his sight, we still wear Jesus’s immaculate, snowy-white robes that never even had to be washed.
When my loving friends confront me on the sin they see in my heart and in my life, when I react in defensiveness and mentally pulling up my list of righteous deeds to reassure myself, I devalue the grace that I have already received. The already-done, stubborn grace of God that has covered and renewed my naturally hateful, angry self really is all-sufficient. It really does mean that I now have the freedom to claim and repent of all of my heart issues, including what my friend has shown me, because Jesus already knows and is ready to forgive. It is in this rubber-meeting-the-road way that God reminds me that he is always faithful when I am not, and I don’t have to try to convince others (or myself) otherwise.