I have been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. I was struck by this sentence:
If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sin at all.
The way I heard one pastor put it was, we need to view our own sin with the judgement of sobriety and others’ sin with the judgement of charity.
I usually reverse those. I have all sort of excuses and circumstantial extenuations for why I sin. It usually is closely related to other people’s sin. Do you ever do that? “Sure I’m not treating my spouse the way God directs me to, but he/she sinned first.” “Okay, I’m not treating my child with the dignity and respect owed him as human, but he acted so foolishly.” “Yes, I should not have spoken about that person the way I did, but did you hear what she did to me?”
In Ephesians 3.8 Paul says,
To me, though I am the least of all the saints, this grace was given
Here is the man who wrote nearly half of the books in the New Testament. And his view of himself is that he is the least of all the saints.
When I view your sin as worse than mine I will always have an excuse for withholding love or forgiveness or even mere kindness. When I view your sin as worse than my sin I have an excuse to sin against you, because it will feel like justice.
But when I view my sin as worse than your sin I will be quick to forgive because I know how much I have been forgiven. I will be quick to empathize because I know the temptations that are common to all of us. I will not withhold love from you because God does not withheld His love from me when I sin.
Is there someone in your life whose sin you are convinced is worse than your own? Is there a “lesser” saint than you in your life? What would your relationship look like if you were to view your own sin as worse than theirs? How would it affect your interactions, your attitude, your heart? What if you made as many excuses and explanations for his or her sin as you do for your own? “He was tired.” “She had a rough day.” “He’s really been under a lot of pressure.”
Brotherly love will find any number of extenuations for the sins of others, only for my sin is there no excuse whatsoever.
Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Enjoy the Journey.