Saturday, February 01, 2014

A League of the Guilty

17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good . . . .” – Matthew 19:17 (NASB95)
So of all things, Christianity isn't supposed to be about gathering up the good people (shiny! happy! squeaky clean!) and excluding the bad people (frightening! alien! repulsive!) for the very simple reason that there aren't any good people … This goes flat contrary to the predominant image of [Christianity] existing in prissy, fastidious little enclaves, far from life's messier zones and inclined to get all "judgmental" about them. Of course there are Christians like that … The religion certainly can slip into being a club or a cozy affinity group or a wall against the world. But it isn't supposed to be. What it's supposed to be is a league of the guilty. Francis Spufford, Unapologetic (HarperOne, 2013), pp. 45-48
When you first read that phrase, “league of the guilty,” it might sound negative. It’s not immediately some snappy phrasing that catches our interest and makes us say, “Now that’s what I want!” No, it requires some thought.

The writer quoted points out one of the major faults with the modern church. We think too highly of ourselves; something the Bible tells us not to do (Rom 12:1f). Modern Christians like to talk about how good we are, often how much better we are than outsiders. We give ourselves a bit of gloss and polish and become hypocrites. Yes, hypocrites. That’s somebody playing a role that isn’t really them, and we’re certainly not the perfect, angelic folks we pretend to be.

Reality is quite different. Truth be told, Christians have just about all the sins that others have. Yes, we may have moderated a bit, some quite a bit. But if we were to suggest to Jesus how good we are, he would likely respond the same way he did in the verse above. “There is only One who is good.” It’s not you and it’s not me. Only God is good, so maybe it would be a great idea for us to acknowledge that truth and figure out what we are supposed to be.

“League of the guilty” isn’t too bad a way to put it. We’re all sinners, but we resist naming our sins. We all admit to imperfection, but have trouble identifying exactly what that is. We’re better at pointing our fingers at others.

It’s time for the church to be what we really are, if we’re the church. We are redeemed sinners. We are saved rebels. We still struggle with sins. Specific, real, honest, gut-wrenching sins. The best among us is not good. We’re all guilty. But we do have one thing going for us. Jesus died to take away our sins and eliminate the consequences of our guilt. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” (Ps 107:2). That’s much better than acting like we’re something else.