“You’re an @$$?&#€,” my counselor calmly informed me.
“I am not an @$$?&#€,” I shot back.
“Yes. You are an @$$?&#€—and I’m an @$$?%#€, too.”
Believe it or not, it was one of the most formative moments in my life when I realized how messed up I really am.
And you are too.
There’s Actually An Upside To Being An @$$?%#€
Coming from a long line of believers can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because our Christian heritage means we have developed a culture that challenges and expects every person to follow Jesus. Living a remotely evil life is foreign to me.
It can also be a curse, because people like me can easily assume we’re automatically “in.” We also tend to insulate ourselves from the outside world around us. And, as much as I hate to admit it, we can easily become judgmental of people who struggle with sins that our Christian culture has deemed worse than others. To put it bluntly, we have a hard time admitting that we’re @$$?&#€s.
The apostle Paul addressed people like me in Romans chapter 2:
So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? (Verse 3)
I can imagine these words ruffled the feathers of quite a few of Paul’s readers. A sinner?? Me?? God’s judgment?
Paul even accuses his Christian readers of committing the same sins as the Gentiles. In the previous chapter (1:29-31), Paul names the sins of those wicked @$$?&#€s:
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
From a publishing standpoint, no editor would have let this appear in print because Paul has effectively alienated his readers.
Were Paul’s readers actually committing these acts? Based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:21-30, the answer is yes. According to Jesus, when you’re angry at someone, you’re guilty of murder. Ever lusted after someone? Then you’re guilty of adultery.
Paul reinforces this by reminding his readers that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Being Good Isn’t Enough
But the gist of Paul’s point is this: Going to church isn’t enough. Reading the Neighborhood Café blog isn’t enough. Growing up in a Christian family isn’t enough. We simply can’t do enough to be saved from God’s wrath. We’re all @$$?&#€s. We may not commit heinous crimes, but we commit sins of the heart–sins like envy, murder, strife, gossip, arrogance…the list goes on and on.
How then can anyone be saved??
Paul answers the question later in Romans, but rather than point to the antidote, I encourage you to meditate on this reality. We can’t do enough to satisfy God’s wrath against sin. We cannot be good enough to save ourselves.
The psalmist in Psalm 10 offers us a window into resolving this dilemma:
You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry (Psalm 10:17).
God responds to the cry of the afflicted. When we see ourselves as we really are—people created in the image of God who have become infected and afflicted by sin—then we can begin our recovery.
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. His family fully knows that he’s an @$$?&#€.