I Am the Villain in this Story

Self-righteousness might be the most devastating disease debilitating mankind today. And it will stop at nothing to protect its host, even putting God on a cross. Jesus addressed it more than any other sin. Because, if a person is self-righteous, that is, doesn’t think she is wrong, she certainly won’t be self-reflective enough to see any other error. Self-righteousness afflicts us all; left and right, atheist or Christian, democrat or republican. When you don’t believe you trespass against God or harm His creatures or creation, you will fail at understanding or having compassion on those who do. Self-righteousness impedes real conversation and understanding. It stomps on compassion. Worse, it robs the person of the joy of giving and, more wonderfully, receiving forgiveness. My friends there is nothing more freeing than being forgiven by a person, let alone God. Jesus often cut the self-righteous down by showing them their sins. But His goal wasn’t to strip them and leave them for dead. Like the good Samaritan, He only helps those who can’t help themselves. He only forgives sinners. He only raises the dead.

The recent pandemic brought out the worst of our tendency toward self-righteousness as we hurled insults at people who disagreed with any of our opinions about how to address the issue. Now, this same cancer is invading our debate about how to go forward after the murder of an innocent man by someone we are supposed to trust. Instead of beginning our response by recognizing our own lack of loving our neighbor or standing up for others, we cast wide accusations on everyone except for ourselves; as if there is no way we could ever imagine being racist, angry, or cold blooded. One of the most fundamental teachings of Jesus occurs when He points out to the Pharisees that calling your brother a name is murder. Jesus did not allow people who never did anything publicly terrible to escape guilt. Why? He didn’t want them to escape forgiveness and experience the amazing love of God despite their sins!

Ultimately my friends, when we read the story of George Floyd, we want to think of ourselves as him. But Jesus wants you to also see yourselves as Derek Chauvin, his friends who watched and did nothing, the store owners, and the looters. In one way or another you stand in their shoes in God’s court! And Jesus died for them all!

It’s dangerous to let go of your own righteousness. It leaves you vulnerable on social media. It rocks your world as you see yourself in the eyes of your enemy. You might even momentarily not really like yourself! Self-Righteousness is intoxicating. It caused the Pharisees to kill their accuser rather than repent! Fortunately, God’s love somehow always wins! He even turned the ultimate act of self-righteousness into the ultimate act of Forgiveness as Jesus’ death became the source of all our righteousness! You don’t need to be righteous! You don’t need to protect your righteousness! You don’t need to pretend anymore. Jesus gives us His righteousness! Repent and believe the Good News.

Lord have mercy on us all