Sometimes, I get so caught up in my own life. In my good life. At least I'm not like them. I'm not getting drunk and partying all night. I'm in church every Sunday and at youth group every week. I even read my Bible outside of church! I'm a pastor's daughter; I'm the good girl; I don't do the "bad things"; I don't curse; I'm better than them.
Isn't that what we all think from time to time? Isn't that what some of us live by? Isn't that what I have lived by in my own life?
But Jesus... Jesus. The Man whom no one quite understood. The Man who required faith and gave new life. The Man who changed the way people looked at this world. Jesus completely turned our "holier than thou" mindset on end.
10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
I am the Pharisee.
13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” -Luke 18:10-14
Oh, did that parable cause a stir. It still should. Jesus basically just said that my "good girl" reputation does not make me any better than who I consider "the sinners". The ones who follow the law and do right are the ones to be praised, right? Wrong. Jesus called the tax collector to follow Him. He called the sinners. Matthew was a tax collector. The disciple Matthew. You'd think that His disciples would have been living by the law their whole lives. That they would have it all together. It makes sense, Him being holy and all, to associate with "holy" people. But instead, He says that the poor in spirit are blessed. The humble are blessed. Those who are persecuted are blessed.
I want this kind of faith.
I want my life to be an act of surrender. I want my life to be humble. If I live my life thinking I'm somehow better, how am I supposed to love "the least of these"? I could tithe every Sunday, go on more mission trips, do more "good things", and still get it wrong. The Pharisee was a good man. But those good, just acts cannot become just another thing that makes me better. It can't become just another badge to wear with pride. Just as He called the tax collector to follow Him, to trust Him even though he didn't understand His ways, He is calling us. Jesus was humble, and calls us to be humble before Him. We are to care for others out of love and surrender to Him, not to check off another "good deed for the day".
I'm still getting the hang of the whole "love and live like Jesus" thing. It's hard. But He didn't say it would be easy. My faith is being molded daily. Sometimes He gently peels away another layer, showing me more of sweet this life in Him. Sometimes, He showers me with His presence and power so mightily that all I can do is stand in awe, amazed that I get to experience Him, in the quiet moments and in the overwhelming ones.
I pray that each day, my life would reflect the cry of the tax collector. I pray that I would live not by an identity built up by the good things I've done, but an identity that says I was broken at His feet, begging Him to please reach down and touch me, heal me. An identity of crazy, undeserved grace and mercy. I want to be like the tax collector, trusting Him enough to let go of my sin and follow Him, surrendered, humbled, broken, and redeemed.
Oh Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.