Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. (Romans 2:1, MSG)
You can’t escape Paul. At some point, every Christian must set aside self-righteousness and drink Paul’s writing, which can be akin to slurping down pickle juice. The sharp bitterness sends shivers through the whole body—and yet hydrates from the inside out (which is really what pickle juice does).
The bitterness, however, isn’t from what Paul says exactly; it’s from our reaction. Each word hurts because it’s true. Sometimes he hits our recklessness, and sometimes he hits our legalism, helping us to clean the glass so that we can see clearly.
Far worse, in my mind, is Paul’s refusal to let us gloat or raise ourselves up. Being isolated by my own sense of holiness would be easier. Paul doesn’t even let me close the door.
“Look ‘out there,’” he says. “You see those people? That’s you—each one is just like you. So, get out there and do something.”
It’s an uncomfortable feeling, trying to understand how to be like Christ. I want to pursue Him with all I am, but He keeps going out where the tax collectors and sinners are—people like me. The only difference is that I’m tagging along; they’re not yet.
Jesus went to the synagogue—and then took the synagogue to the people who needed it most. I didn’t meet Him in a church—or a Bible study or a church event. I met Him where Matthew did: in the middle of my sin.
Some sinners come running to steeples. Some sinners come running to Jesus in the streets.