The details of the following story will be very vague to protect the names of the guilty but I think that my vagueness will help you insert your own story into the true tale that I will tell.
The story is about Edgar (that’s not his real name but I really liked the ring to it!). Edgar was not well liked by those who knew him. He had hit a brick wall brought on by some of the storms of life…perhaps brought on by his own sin or maybe brought on by the sins of others….or very probably a combination of the two. Recently Edgar committed a crime. Those who were close to the situation observed that this move was foolish and not well thought through. He played along as if his hands were lily white but they weren’t…and he was squeezed and finally fessed up. His confession saved him from some long term difficulties but some serious costly short term ramifications came from his poor choice.
My point is not to focus primarily on Edgar and his unwise decisions but more on the responses to him. Those closest to the situation made lots of comments on his failures. Some called him some unprintable names. Some quoted one of the Ten Commandments that he broke. Others said, ‘if there’s one thing that I can’t stand, it’s a _________’. Some just smiled and laughed because they wouldn’t have to see this guy again.
The souls of many delight when people screw up. Unbelievers observe the stupid moves of the people around them and joy in the fact that they are not like them. Unfortunately that’s true of the church world gang, as well. We see someone do something bad or foolish or risky or all three and we think to ourselves ‘I would never do anything like that. I may be bad but I’m certainly not as bad as that guy/gal.’ I’ve said it before that I believe that that is why reality TV is so hot. You see people say and do a lot of bonehead things on these shows and our sinful hearts may look a little less black, in our own eyes. Your sin and my sin may pale in comparison…but not before a holy God.
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2:10 ESV)
Many of us believe, in whole or in part, that ‘if I do some good stuff it may earn me some brownie points before a holy God.’ I say the Lord’s prayer every day (thanks Pastor Jake), or I don’t jay walk, or I don’t swear, or I drop a twenty in the Salvation Army pot every December or I never break the speed limit, these things don’t get anyone any closer to a holy God that we have been born a galaxy away from. We shouldn’t do good things expecting that these deeds will get us closer to being accepted by Him…they don’t, so we shouldn’t try to do them in order to gain His favour. If we all drop the ball at least once (and we all do and a whole lot more than we care to admit) (Romans 3:23), we still remain estranged from a holy God.
But isn’t that what the religious crew do who do not have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? I reference the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) often because it teaches so many things. The Pharisee patted himself on the back because he fasted a couple times a week, gave a tenth of the product in his spice rack, and he avoided a sin list of a horrendous four and probably more! But he went away still in sin up to his eyeballs because he walked away trusting in his own good works.
Romans 7 tells us that knowing that coveting was wrong ramped up Paul’s desire to covet. God’s commands promise eternal life if you keep them, but we can’t, so they lead us to the spiritual graveyard.
So back to my friend Edgar and the gang that cast rocks at him and his behaviour. What of them? What about Christians who self-righteously judge in the situation? Both groups need to the gospel. Unbelievers need to see less of the sin in others and more of the sin in their own wayward hearts that cause them to cry out for God for His mercy much like the tax collector in Luke 18. And as for believers? How should they response be?
 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV)
Believers need to thank God for His grace at work in their lives. If you don’t participate in the naughty nine or terrible ten, realize that it is God’s grace at work.Think of the downward trajectory that your life was on before Christ (I do sometimes and I shudder). Thank Him. Praise Him for the change that has taken place. Don’t pat yourself on the back but outstretch your arms in praise and thanksgiving.
So as for Edgar, I need to phone him and we need to do coffee. I need to share the glorious gospel with him.