Have you ever been last in life? Rejected by that guy, failed trigonometry, let your team down with every at-bat? Have you ever dug yourself into a hole with your words or actions and now you don’t have a friend or even a spouse?
It just plain doesn’t feel good to be last, especially when everyone knows you are. Like those beggars at the intersections, we pretend to not see. But we see them. They see us. They are us. They are a mirror of what God sees when He looks at us.
Early on in Paul’s life, he thought he was in first place in life. He bragged about it in a couple of his letters. He was a prodigy in academia and leadership. He was in line to lead the Pharisees and possibly the Jewish nation. He considered himself fairly sinless, loved by all, and successful. When he looked in the mirror he saw what he wanted and needed to see.
Then one day God woke him up! Why are you persecuting me? God opened his eyes to see his shame and guilt. Paul was blinded but now could see that He looked just like that beggar on the side of the road. Real ‘wokeness’ comes when we see sin in ourselves not pointing our fingers at others. Though that’s what we do when we first awake to our guilt: point and blame anything and everyone, to get that guilt off of us. Usually because we are scared of what we see in the mirror. We need to justify ourselves.
When Paul discovered his true undecorated or disguised identity when Jesus gave him the blue pill on the way to Damascus, He probably went into Kafka’s existential shock. He had it all wrong. He was actually last in place, last in righteousness, last in mortality. Only then did Jesus’ words made sense. He finally had ears to hear, “The last will be first.” Only then did he actually begin to trust in God and let go of trust in himself. He had no other choice, and as the thief on the cross realized, Jesus is the only one there when you are last.
So Paul sincerely declares to Timothy in his first letter to him, “Here is a trustworthy saying deserving of full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of which I am the best at sinning.”
It’s ok to be last. It’s okay to wake up and find yourself not as pretty as you imagined. It’s ok to admit you are a sinner. It’s ok to be last. In fact, it’s wonderful because only the last get to be first, only sinners get to be saved, and only the dead get to be raised.
So we can boldly say the strangest saying, “O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem”, O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer.
Wake up fools. You’re actually in last place. But that’s the place where Jesus hangs out.