By Ethan Renoe
For the longest time, I’ve had this little illustration bouncing around my brain with no place to put it. So here it is.
Imagine driving down the road, doing a mere 3 miles over the speed limit when a maniac flies by you, easily going 25 mph over the limit. You see red and blue flash in your rearview and think Good, they’re getting that lunatic.
But the cruiser hovers behind you instead of going after Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The cop sidles up to your window to shouts of furious protest. Are you kidding me?? That guy flew by me! Why aren’t you going after him?? He’s the REAL lawbreaker! I was just going 3 over!
The cop leans down and says, “You were breaking the law, weren’t you?”
“…and that’s why I pulled you over.”
See, it’s not the degree to which we break the law, but the fact that we break it at all. Our tendency is to point fingers and say, ‘Are you kidding me? Look at that guy! At least I’m not as bad as him!”
I think of the beautiful passage in Luke where a prostitute falls to her knees before Jesus and begins washing His feet with her hair. When His disciples are perturbed by this, Jesus tells them, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
A while ago, I realized what Jesus is actually saying in this passage. He is not saying that some of us have only sinned a little bit, and therefore, are only capable of loving in proportional amount. Rather, He is instructing us to recognize that we ALL have sinned as much as the next prostitute, and the more we are able to realize this, the more we will be able to love those around us.
It’s not about the quantity of sins you have committed, but about realizing that we all are equal in our depravity, and therefore, in need of a Savior.
This is why Jesus was so hard on those Pharisees (Religious teachers of the Law). The fact that they swept their sins under the cupboard only indicated to the Lord that they were, in fact, striving to be their own saviors.
The only difference between the Pharisees and the prostitutes is that one’s sins are out in the open for all to see, and the other does their best to seal up the cracks where anyone may see their faults. They can’t accept the help of a Savior.
I think Jesus gravitated more toward the Prostitutes and tax collectors because they already were in the proper mindset of
‘I am a sinner.
Everyone knows it.
I cannot save myself.
I need help.’
In fact, the case could be made that Jesus can ONLY save these kinds of people, for they’re the ones who are not busying themselves thinking they’re good enough to live without Him. The fact is, we all need Him, for we all have sinned against Him, turned our backs to Him, and slept with other lovers.
I love Donald Miller’s quote in Scary Close, “Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.” The more we accept our flaws, fallenness, and brokenness, the more we can allow the Lord to come and heal us. The prostitutes who broke bread with Jesus were not pretending to be someone they weren’t. And for this reason, He was able to love them as they were.
I’m grateful that the ground before the cross is level ground.
I’m grateful that He still pursues us, the unfaithful lovers.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.~Matthew 9:11-12
About the Author: Ethan is a speaker, writer, and photographer currently living in Los Angeles. He has lived on 6 continents, gone to 6 schools, had 28 jobs, and done 4 one-armed pull-ups. He recently graduated from Moody Bible Institute. Follow him at ethanrenoe.com or check him out on Facebook.