Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
- 1 Timothy 1:15-16
“… one extreme statement must still be made, without any platitudes, and in all soberness. Not considering oneself wise, but associating with the lowly, means considering oneself the worst of sinners. This arouses total opposition not only from those who live at the level of nature, but also from Christians who are self-aware. It sounds like an exaggeration, an untruth. Yet even Paul said of himself that he was the foremost, i.e., the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). He said this at the very place in scripture where he was speaking of his ministry as an apostle. There can be no genuine knowledge of sin that does not lead me down to this depth. If my sin appears to me to be in any way smaller or less reprehensible in comparison with the sins of others, then I am not yet recognizing my sin at all. My sin is of necessity the worst, the most serious, the most objectionable. Christian love will ﬁnd any number of excuses for the sins of others; only for my sin is there no excuse whatsoever. That is why my sin is the worst. Those who would serve others in the community must descend all the way down to this depth of humility. How could I possibly serve other persons in unfeigned humility if their sins appear to me to be worse than my own? If I am to have any hope for them, then I must not raise myself above them. Such service would be a sham. ‘Do not believe that you have made any progress in the work of sanctification, if you do not feel deeply that you are less than all others’” (Thomas à Kempis).”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
I have often felt that I was the worst sinner and I have had people try to talk me out of that feeling. If it were that they thought they were the worst sinner, that would be one thing, but they wanted me to consider all those people who were worse than me. That, according to Bonhoeffer and à Kempis disqualifies me from serving such people.
It seems to be the world’s chief end, especially in the church, in building people up, bolstering their self-esteem. Bozo the clown had winners and almost-winners, but I grew up on countless losing teams. I never ever received a trophy or ribbon for “participating.”
Now, golf on the other hand… I could have a horrible round of golf and then make a miraculous shot to save a double-bogey (a bad score if you do not know how to score in golf, but a triple-bogey would be worse)… If I made that one good shot, I would come back to the course again to see if I could make two of those miraculous shots the next time. My score might not be better. I might be the last among those I played against, but I had reason for hope.
We always have a reason for hope in that when we go to be with Jesus, there is no more pain, no more tears, and no more sin nature. We will indeed be washed clean.
Until then, I can still contend that I have no reason to place myself above any other, for I am a sinner.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.