Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus… — Romans 3:23-24, RSVCE
Every once in a while, I get aggravated. It appears to come out of nowhere, but once I get the journal and pen out, I find that the same conclusion is reached almost every time. I realize time and time again that it’s hard to balance aspirations to holiness with the reality of sin in the world. We always want to be the best version of ourselves, and we expect the same of others, but every once in a while we get a reminder that there is still a very great need for the grace of God.
Such reminders would be more welcome if they didn’t apply to us. We love the idea of being gracious to others, but we don’t like the reality that we stand in dire need of unmerited favor as well. We fall short, just like anyone else, and when we forget that, we eliminate our ability to act compassionately and reflect unto others the transformative forgiveness we receive from God. To be reminded that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” is a painful but necessary truth of which we need to be consistently reminded.
Now, this is not for the purposes of guilt. Too often, we shy away from confession and the acknowledgment of the reality of sin because it makes us feel bad. This is my problem, and it is why I get so aggravated when something comes along that reminds me of my human frailty. I have a problem with self-judgment, and I tend to fall into a cycle of self-condemnation and despair rather than taking the lesson for what it is. I believe this is a truth that many of us can relate to.
So what do we do?
The Scripture above from Romans is a good start. We need to recognize that it isn’t just us. We aren’t a particularly broken or sinful case, no matter what our struggle may be. Our world tries to portray brokenness and pain as exceptions that can be rooted out, rather than the painful “other side” that always comes with free will. When Paul says “all have sinned and fall short,” he means ALL OF US. Everyone has a struggle, a battle they wage. Everyone has a journey they are on. God’s reminders of our need for His grace are not meant to be condemnatory, but encouraging. The pain of sin is something we all have in common, and the need for grace is universal.
In short, YOU’RE NOT ALONE. None of us are.
Now, take a look at this passage from Matthew, please.
Did you do it? I’m trusting you…
Anyway, I believe this story is an excellent view of discipleship. Following Jesus isn’t about “making it.” There is no time or place we can reach where we will not need occasional reminders of our dependence on God. Peter learns this first hand, as he even walks on water with Jesus, and yet, like the rest of us, the time comes when even he must cry out, “Lord, save me!”
In the future, I’m going to try not to get frustrated when those “save me” moments come my way. I hope this brief word will encourage you to the same end. If we keep our eyes and hearts open, we will find consistent reminders from God that are not designed for our guilt or shame, but for our enlightenment. If we pay attention, we can see that we are not alone. We are all walking this road of life together, bound in the love of the One who will always extend His hand to pull us out of the waves of our sin and despair. Our job is not to be pulled up, stay above water, and spend life helping others see the light. Rather, we are called to recognize that as we are constantly being pulled up, so we must also constantly reflect that saving grace to others, not from a position of superiority, but of camaraderie.
Peace be with you!