But, if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:7-8)
It only took one look around to figure everyone out. I sat with a friend in the waiting room of a free health clinic. Characters of all varieties came in and found their seat. I saw tattoos, matted hair, and worn shoes. The odor of bus fumes and Marlboro mingled with the smell of medical sanitation. The people in that room walked a hard life, most of them because of their own choices and mistakes.
I considered where they are and where I am—middle-class mom of three walking the straight and narrow. A sense of superiority began to well up in me. I did life right and they did it wrong.
This is an ugly side of me. I walk into the trap of comparing sins like an animal prancing in front of the lion’s den. Before I can cross to the other side, the enemy has me cornered.
It is easy to look sideways for my holiness; that is, comparing my sins with my neighbors’. Compared to the general public, I have this holy thing covered!
More often, I keep a ledger of my good deeds minus the bad deeds. As long as my list of good is longer than my list of bad, I am in the clear with God. This is my own warped version of holiness.
God calls me to be holy because HE is holy. He doesn’t ask me to be better than Chrissy Christian. He doesn’t look for me to out-do the goody girl I was yesterday. The standard is God. And I fall short. Every. Time. I gloss over the holiness of God and sink in the deception of horizontal comparison because it makes me feel better about myself.
I cheapen grace.
I disregard mercy.
In essence, I tell Jesus, “I don’t need what you did on the cross that much because I am pretty good.” The shame in that statement! The shame in my heart!
I fell prey to sideways holiness in that waiting room. The enemy had me. How could I show others the love of God while wrapped up in a love for myself?
Conviction fell hard on me as I waited with my friend. I am one choice away from sitting where these precious souls sit. If not for God’s lavish grace and unending mercy, I would be condemned.
I become an ineffective emissary of the gospel when I am caught in the teeth of judgment and pride. Owning the fact that I, myself, am a sinner in need of grace, helps me have compassion on others–whether they are lying on the street in the filth of their own decisions or standing tall in polished heels at church.
Do you look sideways to find your holiness? Take some time to shift your gaze heavenward. There you will find true holiness and grace enough to cover every sin.