With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down. - Psalm 18:25-27
I want to let people in on an obvious little secret, something that we should know, especially pastors, but really everyone. When you complain about the sins of other folks, you really are complaining about your own sin, the things that bother you about yourself, the things that frighten you about yourself.
Seriously, it's true. How often has it happened where the famous preacher who goes on and on about the evil of homosexuality is the one who gets caught in that part of that park propositioning the undercover cop? Or how often is it a matter of the person who complains about gossip is in fact one of the worst gossips, or the fellow who complains how unwelcoming the congregation is ends up being one of the rudest folks around?
This is how God's law works. It pricks us... and when we are pricked, there are only two options. We can confess our sin, or we can deflect and blame others to assert in our minds our superiority. We can be humble and receive mercy,or we can be haughty and demonstrative, all the while our eyes are brought lower and lower by our own shame, that shame we think we've hidden but really is sort of obvious to anyone.
This leads to the question I'd pose for consideration this morning.
What are you complaining about in your neighbor? What accusations do you level towards them?
And do you realize those are the things that you are really fighting against yourself?
Do you say that they are greedy or stingy? You realize that's because you yourself think in terms of money, and wish you could control how they use theirs.
Do you complain about their sexual behaviors? That's your own coming out at you, because you're viewing them as sexual animals.
Do you complain about their pride, their ego, their desire for fame? That's your own pride coming out, because you view everything in terms of how you yourself are viewed and what people think of you.
Do you complain about how they are disdainful of order, they don't respect authority? That's your own desire for control, a desire to make others obey you even when God has not placed you in authority over others.
Alright, let's get the complaint out of the way. "Now wait a minute Brown, we have to address sin!"
Yes. We do. But why? What is the goal in addressing sin? Is it not to prepare the way for the Gospel? So if you are complaining about "those folks"... are you ever getting to the Gospel with them? I mean, it's one thing if you go to Bob and say, "Bob, you need to work on this" - and it's another thing if you sit around and say, "I can't believe what a jerk Bob is." Even if it is true that Bob is the biggest jerk in the world... theologically what good does it do to complain.
Because, at our core, at the center of our being as Christians, we are to be proclaimers of forgiveness. We are to be the peacemakers, proclaiming the forgiveness of sins. Because *that* is the point, the center of all things. That is knowing Christ and Him Crucified - not that you ignore the Law, but that you always drive to the Gospel.
And you know, folks? That thing you've been complaining about concerning your neighbor. Christ Jesus has died for that sin that is messing with you, and you are forgiven. Really. That's the reality.
God grant that I remember His mercy more than the sins I fear that I see in my neighbor!