“I am a good person” is the most common reason that people in America will say they are going to heaven. I have heard it countless times, and I have to say that this mentality really brings with it some unnecessary burdens. If your salvation depends on you, guilt will overwhelm you. The inability to get out of habitual sin patterns will ruin you, leaving you with the heavy feeling that there is no escape. You find yourself overcome with the weight of having to be perfect, instead of receiving grace and mercy in your time of need.
Comparison has creeped its way into every fabric of our society. So many of our identities are established on being better or worse than our neighbors. We are often blind to our own sin and quick to point a finger at our brothers and sisters. This reveals a couple very deep-rooted issues: we are in need of a revelation of our sin and equally in need of a revelation of God’s MERCY.
The story of John 8 ruins me. It sheds light on humanity’s basic instincts: comparison and blame. We tend to villainize the woman caught in adultery without empathizing, like the Pharisees, when they cast her at Jesus’ feet. They thought she deserved death, disconnecting themselves from the sin in their own hearts. “We’re better than this woman, aren’t we?” Jesus didn’t let them get away with it. He wasn’t shocked by her sin. When her accusers delivered her to Jesus, their eyes were blinded. We see a woman completely aware of her sin and expecting death, and men whose own “goodness” would lead them down the same road completely unbeknownst to them. It was quite literally a moment of life and death.
Jesus didn’t deliver the expected answer. He played around in the dirt, remembering the substance of which He formed the human race. How powerful it must have been when Jesus uttered the words, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first one to throw a stone at her.” One by one her accusers left the scene, unable to throw a stone after they realized the weight of their sins. Jesus, the only one able to cast a stone, asked, “Has no one condemned you?” I imagine her face was downcast, expecting death through this whole scene. As she gained the courage to look up, she replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus proclaimed her day of deliverance, “Neither do I, go now and leave your life of sin.”
Mercy is sometimes offensive to the perfectionistic and morally upright. Thinking that our actions have any effect on our salvation puts entirely too much power in our court, belittling God’s free gift of mercy. He alone can cast our sin as “far as the east is from the west.”
Beware of the trap of pride that says you’re better than the person saved in the last minute of their life. Freely accept grace and mercy. Rejoice when God gives it to those around you without limits. It is only then that the reality of a God with limitless resources truly resonates within us, and our need to push others down to elevate ourselves evaporates.
God’s mercy reaches far and wide, and He has more than enough to go around.