While We Were Sinners

The George Floyd trial and its reflection of the immense disregard for the sanctity of life that has come to the surface this past year has been weighing on me the past few days. The idea that someone’s race, social standing or age – things that they have no control over – could impact the value placed upon their life is abhorrent. We have seen this idea surface time and time again this past year and it has cost us so many lives and done huge damage to our souls. 
Yet, the idea that somehow someone’s drug use, or any other behavior, could make their life less valuable and their death more acceptable is equally opposite the teachings of true Christianity. Every religious observance we make this Good Friday should remind us of that. 

Paul wrote about what we remember today thus: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul then reminds us that Jesus died for us “while we were enemies of God.” Jesus came to us in the midst of our sin and while we were still sinners, He loved and valued us enough to give His own life so that we could have eternal life. If our Savior so valued us as sinners, who are we to say that anything anyone else does diminishes the value of their life?

Jonathan Edwards, a congregational minister from the 1700s said it this way: 

“Christ loved us, and was kind to us, and was willing to relieve us, though we were very hateful persons, of an evil disposition, not deserving of any good…so we should be willing to be kind…”

If we doubt that we ourselves were equally in need of Christ’s sacrifice, consider this story of Yehiel De-Nur, a Holocaust survivor who was a key witness against Adolf Eichmann (one of the main men behind the Holocaust). When Yehiel saw Eichmann, he was overcome with emotion and fell to the ground because he realized that Eichmann, sinful as he was, was a fellow human and that caused him to recognize his own human propensity for evil. In De-Nur’s words: “I was afraid of myself…I saw that I am capable to do this. I am…exactly like he.”

I know, without a doubt, that when I look beyond the outside of what people can see, the same sins course through my own heart that lead to all the sins I see in others: despair, hatred, selfishness, unchecked ambition, gluttony, impatience, sloth, indifference and turning away from God and His will from my life.

When I look at George Floyd, a man who became addicted to substances he turned to in order to blunt pain, I see a bottle of wine, sitting on my kitchen counter and promising to numb my sorrow at 8 o’clock in the morning. I know that the choices that followed – to dump it out and not bring alcohol into the house while I was acutely grieving – could just as easily have been to drink one glass that morning, then two the next, then a few more a week later, until I was as much a prisoner of a substance as he was. I don’t know why I made the choice I did and George Floyd made the choice he did, back when it was a choice for him. But I do know, that the same impulses flowed in both our veins and we aren’t as different as our outcomes would suggest. And I know, most importantly that Jesus loves and values us both, despite our sins and that because of this, He hung on a cross and died for us. 

On this Good Friday, if we want to share the Gospel, it is this: that no matter what choices we have made, actions we have done or deeds we have committed, Jesus looked on us, loved us and died, taking upon Himself the consequences that we alone deserved. 

If we want to really understand the depth of the Gospel’s power and for it to ring true to those around us, it is by doing this: as we look upon Christ’s broken body, hanging on the cross, as we see His mother sobbing at His feet, as we hear His body breaking in the bread and His blood pouring out in the wine, we must remember that all of this was for each one of us. We did this to Jesus. Our sins called out “Crucify, crucify!” and out of love for us, Jesus submitted. If we let that reality really sink into our own hearts and let it change the way that we see those around us, knowing that it was for them, too that Jesus chose to die, then we will be true witnesses to the Gospel: “That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” because He cherished and valued all of our lives even when we were still living in sin.

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