Some days you read something in the Bible that makes your heart skip a beat.
This week Luke 19:7 was that for me. Tucked away in the familiar story about short Zacchaeus is this observation: “All who saw it [Jesus visiting with Zacchaeus] began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’” What a wonderful reality this is! In his incarnation, our Lord and Saviour came to be the guest of sinners – of our fallen world – all to the purpose of reconciling us to God and letting us into the Kingdom.
Most of us are lucky (?) enough that we get to forget the sin we’ve been forgiven for. We’re so used to grace, so used to the overpowering and victorious love of God that we forget just what a big deal it is. But it wasn’t always that way, and I think that’s why people like Paul were so transported by the utter mercy of God – having been under the broad axe of the law, they understood perfectly just what they had been redeemed from. But two thousand years after his sacrificing, atoning death, many of us have had the cultural luxury of easy access to knowledge of Jesus and grace, and easy participation in his Body and his blood. While many more people today can say that they’re saved than in the years after Jesus’ Crucifixion (and that’s a good thing!), I think we sometimes forget exactly what it is we’ve been saved from – death!
My prayer this week is that I’ll be reminded of the sheer volume of God’s grace. If I am – if I remember what a sinner I am, and that I’m a sinner saved – then I should also be able to remember that others are sinners, saved too, or that some are sinners in need of salvation. In recognising my own sinful nature, who then am I to judge others for theirs?
If grace is to be appreciated and fully embraced, it follows that even while we recognise that we’ve been made new in Christ, we cannot forget the old nature. Our condemned nature is the soil in which the seed of our metanoia, our conversion, takes root. We don’t become new people in Christ because we forget the old; on the contrary, remembering who we were before is essential to our lives in Christ! I’m convinced that Christianity as a religion and as a moral bulwark is in decline exactly because we’ve become so used to our salvation that we’ve forgotten how much we needed it – and still do – in the first place!
If I ever get a tattoo, it’ll be two words on my wrist: sinner, saved. To me that encapsulates “grace” in a way that the word “grace” can’t. It’s the old nature, death, sin defeated; and the grace of a new morning, a second chance, a love indescribable. It’s the very reality of Jesus Christ.
As we head into February, let’s not suffer from amnesia. Yes, we were sinners – terrible sinners, with mistakes as tall as buildings. We don’t have to dwell on this, but we have to make peace with it if we’re to properly understand and experience just what it means to be saved, what it means to be alive, what it means to be free and loved.
Prayer: Jesus, you’re mighty to save! Thank you for your grace, your love! Thank you for our redemption! Holy Spirit, help me to remember the awesome reality of being a “sinner, saved”. Help me to remember that I too am a sinner in need of a Saviour, as much, if not more than other people!