Not a Milosevic, Manson, or Mengele; but a Sinner Just the Same

Through my years of pastoral ministry, I have had conversations with many people covering  wide array of topics including, but not limited to: family, suffering, service, anger, jealousy, marriage, divorce, children, salvation, and sin. Responses to these conversations have ranged from warm and welcoming to cold and dismissive. Perhaps the most interesting and uncomfortable responses come when the subject of personal sin and responsibility for it are discussed. Sin. Not a topic that many want to acknowledge and deal with. However, an issue that can not be ignored.

One of the responses that I have heard quite a bit is one like this, “I’m not as bad as ________”, or something similar. The problem with that statement is found in the individual’s belief of what “bad” is. We like to think “bad” has a specific face. We like to think we would recognize “bad” walking down the street or sitting beside us in a restaurant. We like to think that we would recognize “bad” sitting in the car next to us at the traffic light or living next door to us in our closed-gate neighborhoods. When we think of “bad” people, certain names come to mind rather quickly. None would doubt that Slobodan Milosevic is a “bad” person. After all, for his part in the ethnic cleansing campaign during the Bosnian War, he was indicted for war crimes and stands as a portrait of hate, violence, and inhumane treatment. That’s bad. None would doubt that Charles Manson is a “bad” person. A convicted murderer, his very name invokes images of hate, depravity, and as some say, is evil incarnate. That’s bad. None would doubt that Josef Mengele was a “bad” person. For his part in the attempted extermination of the Jewish race in a German concentration camp during World War II, his name will always be synonymous with evil, sin, and suffering. That’s bad.

When compared to these three for example, we are tempted to say, “I look pretty good” or “I’m in pretty good shape”. The error here – something I call “comparative righteousness”. This is allowing the conduct and actions of another person to set the standard for how we find approval from and right standing with God. It is easy to lower the bar and look to other sinful humans as our example and try to be one step better. The problem: the example. We are told that “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” 1  The problem is further complicated by the fact that not only have we all sinned, but inherently there is nothing within us that would allow us to stand approved before God. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one”. The prophet Isaiah further reveals our inadequacy, “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” 3

 If comparing ourselves with others is the wrong answer, what then is the correct one? If lowering the bar is the wrong answer, what then is the correct one? The answer is to fully understand that all sin, no matter what scale or degree we attach to it, grieves the heart of a holy God. The sin of murder is equally as grievous as lying. The sin of theft is equally grievous as adultery. The sin of lust is as equally grievous as gossip or slander. The sin of pride is as equally grievous as racism. Because we are all sinners, and all sin grieves the heart of a holy God, our only answer is Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, of Jesus, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”. In Him, contentment and peace are found. Paul again wrote, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” So yes, our names may not be Milosevic, Manson, or Mangele, or any other “bad” name. However, we are all “bad” people for whom the Son of God has willingly laid down His life to redeem, save, and rescue. That is good.

1 – Romans 3:23

2 – Romans 3:10

3 – Isaiah 64:6

4 – 2 Corinthians 5:21

5 – Philippains 3:8-9

FIFS : Romans 8:31-39

31. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33. Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36. As it is written:   “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”   37. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39. nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I believe the eighth chapter of Romans is perhaps the single most encouraging and uplifting chapter for the believer in the entire Bible. It begins with “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” and ends with “nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” and the middle part gives us the reasons why. In v.31, Paul asks a question, “What then shall we say to these things?” What are the “things” he spoke of? Here are a few.

1. According to Romans 8:1, we enjoy redemption. Through Christ we stand forgiven and our sin penalty has been paid.

2. According to Romans 8:6, we enjoy victory. Christ gives the believer the victory over the carnal nature that is opposed to everything Christ stands for.

3. According to Romans 8:14-15, we enjoy adoption. Being led and controlled by the Holy Spirit, the believer is no longer an enemy of God, rather now adopted into the family of God.

4. According to Romans 8:16-17, we enjoy assurance. In the low times of life when Satan casts doubt upon our salvation, the Holy Spirit bears witness that through the difficulty we are His.

5. According to Romans 8:26-27, we enjoy intercession. Ever felt like praying but were so burdened that words could not be found? The Holy Spirit hears our heart and speaks for us to the Father.

6. According to Romans 8:28, we enjoy a promise. This verse is for believers. All things in life that happen to us may not be fun, enjoyable, or painless. However, because of our relationship with Christ, “for those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” all things that happen to us can be used by God to bring about good in our lives.

Our enjoyment and possession of these “things” should motivate us to share the gospel message. Do the lost not need redemption? They have sin that Jesus died for. Do the lost not need victory? Without Christ, they will always be slaves to the flesh. Do the lost not need adoption? They will remain outside the family, enemies, until Christ brings them in. Do the lost not need intercession? They have no avenue to approach the Father without Jesus Christ. What will we do?