One of my favorite jokes from Christian comedian Tim Hawkins is when he makes fun of the phrase “that’s the worst.” If you haven’t seen it, here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AtR9-RVxD4
So when you think about sinners, who is “the worst?” If you had to rank actual sins committed in terms of the best to the worst, what would rank at the top? Actually, in PaulD first letter to Timothy, he gives him a list that he describes as lawless, rebellious, ungodly and sinful:
- Those who kill their parents
- those who kill anyone
- sexually immoral
- slave traders
How would you rank those in order of worst to “not as bad”? I mean, if you’re killing your mom and dad, that’s got to be near the top. Slave traders has to be up there too, with lying and sleeping around closer to the bottom because they are a little more socially acceptable, even if not the best behavior.
So in 1 Timothy 1:15 that when Paul says “this saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance - that Christ came into the world to save sinners,” it is a bit of a surprise that he declares, “and I am worst of them.” Right before that verse he throws out his dirty laundry: “ I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man.”
Really? The worst?
But as you read on in 1 Timothy, Paul is confident that God saved him, an arrogant blasphemer, so that homosexuals and liars and people who kill their own mom and dad would see and know that God is patient enough to have mercy on them.
I don’t think it’s possible that we can know the power of the gospel unless we stop pointing fingers and making lists of sins that are acceptable and those that are “the bad ones”. Until we see ourselves as the worst of the worst, we won’t have mercy on those the Lord has had mercy on. We will continue to keep our own sins at the bottom of the list and the sins of others at the top. According to 1 Timothy 1:13, that is arrogant ignorance, and mercy is the only way out.
Thankfully, God has shown us grace. He has sent Jesus to this world to become sin for us, so we could be as righteous as Jesus! We cannot forget that it is Gods Grace that calls us to ministry - not our own pedigree or accomplishments. The reason God saved me is so other sinners would see his patient grace, and turn from their sinful ways to follow him too. Because dying apart from Jesus is the worst.