Have you ever been around someone that just absolutely repulsed you? You know someone who had just such a major character flaw that even talking with them for 5 minutes made you feel sick to your stomach? Well I had the misfortune of being in the company of two such people this month. I wanted to share what I saw and also what the Lord taught me through these meetings.
The first was a big business owner. He is the President of a successful company and wanted to make sure everyone around him knew how important he and his company was. My wife and I and a friend were talking with him for a bit this evening. The conversation started pleasant with the basic get to know you type questions. But once these were out of the way, this business man did everything in his power to let us know just how big of a deal him and his company were.
The repulsing part about him was that no matter what topic was presented, he would somehow twist it back to how awesome his company was. The arrogance spewing forth was almost too much to bear. I found myself getting frustrated with each word he said. I couldn’t believe someone could be some prideful and arrogant!
Later that same week I was helping a friend rent an apartment. The landlord met us to talk about the details and to sign the contract. Everything started fine until I decided to ask some important questions related to the lease. That’s where we hit a snag. We could not agree on one key part of the contract. Now just because someone doesn’t agree with me doesn’t cause me to become repulsed by them. Rather, it was the way in which this landlord decided to disagree.
He basically pulled two very annoying arguments. First, the “my way or the highway” argument and second the “all my friends agree with me” one. We were willing to compromise or talk through things but he was unwilling to budge. He sat there like a pouting child, arrogantly affirming the stance that he was right no matter what was said. The tension was finally broken when the real estate company, (who had been telling him he was wrong but he refused to listen), was able to convince him of a compromise that worked for him.
Needless to say, I was a little frustrated with the people I had come in contact with that week and had lost a little hope for humanity. I know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23), but I felt like these two had fallen hard and were so far from God they’d be pretty hard to save.
But that’s when Jesus softly spoke into my life with these words. It is a quote by an early Christian reformer named John Bradford. “But for the grace of God so go I.” I didn’t hear these words audibly but I could tell what Jesus was trying to tell me. Basically, if Jesus hadn’t come and saved me I would be no better off then those two men.
It was a shocking but humbling revelation. I was completely and utterly repulsed by these two men. But Jesus was telling me that if He had not come and saved me, it is very likely that my life would look a lot like these two. This produced in me a twofold response.
First, it caused me to really humble myself and admit my arrogance over my misconceived righteousness. I think I was so repulsed about their arrogance because I can tend to struggle with that sin. Because it is something I am battling I have little compassion towards those who openly allow this ugly sin to rule in their life.
But I must remember that it isn’t I who has grown in me this desire to battle arrogance, but rather God. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” I am no better off than these men. On my own, I would most likely wander into the same repulsive behavior as them. But, I have been saved and washed clean by the blood of Christ. Therefore I will not compare with others or boast about my own righteousness or growth but rather will boast in Jesus Christ for washing my sins clean and enabling me to seek God first instead of sin.
Second, it caused me to change from a stance of repulsion and anger towards these men into a stance of pity and compassion. Matthew 9:36 says “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus probably saw some pretty arrogant, selfish, prideful behavior. Being as He is perfect this should have repulsed him, and I imagine it did. But instead of allowing this repulsion of sin, (a good thing), to lead towards arrogance or hatred towards these people, (a bad thing), he instead looked on them with compassion, (an amazing thing).
And this is my challenge to myself and to each of you out there. You will meet people with some pretty bad character flaws. You’ll even meet people that have your same character flaw but a much worse case of it. How will we respond when one of these lost sheep enters our lives? Will we be like the arrogant pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 who upon comparing himself to others only showed his own repulsive sin? Or will we react like Jesus who, although repulsed by sin, chose to have compassion on those and meet their needs? May we all seek to respond as Jesus did and learn how we can be sickened by sin but still show compassion and love to the lost sheep of this world.