Last Sunday morning, while on family vacation in Sacramento, I decided to get up “early” and go to the little old Presbyterian church there in my mother-in-law’s neighborhood.
For the 8 years I’ve been coming here each summer, I was always curious about that place. So I showed up in shorts, loafers, and a checkered button down shirt.
I appreciate how I can just arrive at a church filled with strangers, yet we all have an understanding of what we have in common; even though they’ve never seen me before.
Something I’ve gained a better understanding of over the years is that my current place in life typically illustrates the words of the Bible and the pastor’s sermon.
While he spoke about Jesus’s parable of the Prodigal Son, the main theme I took away was this:
We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. We are not good enough on our own.
This is actually a boldly countercultural statement. I’ve learned that most people who are not Christians will typically and quickly summarize why they don’t need to believe in Jesus as the Son of God:
“I’m a pretty good person. I’m not an ax murderer or anything.”
But Christianity teaches the opposite:
I am not a pretty good person. My pride and selfish thoughts alone are enough to keep me from being a “good person”, as they serve as evidence I was born with a sinful nature. Therefore, I need God’s salvation from myself, if nothing else; because my nature creates spiritual distance between God and myself.
But “the church of mainstream secular America”, by default, believes that if you’re a “pretty good person” then you don’t really need God.
So for a person to quickly and openly admit they’re not a “pretty good person,” it’s definitely countercultural.
The irony is that a stereotype of Christians is that they are “holier than though”; in other words, self-righteous and judgmental.
For the record, let me be clear. I am completely aware that I am not perfect. I am corrupted.
How can I judge anyone else when I am too distracted with the plank in my own eye?
I am not better than anyone; and if I ever think I am, then I am living in open rebellion against everything Jesus taught His followers.
Christianity is definitely offensive, though. If for no other reason, because it casts all of us in the same boat:
None of us are “pretty good people”. It’s only by setting aside our prideful thoughts of “I’m a pretty good person” that we can begin to learn what Jesus came to teach us.