I can’t believe they did that.
I would never do that.
I hear phrases like this all the time. I hear them in counseling. I hear them from friends. I think them myself. When these words shoot through my brain or mumble out of someone’s mouth I immediately think, “Don’t say that.” I cringe because my theology of depravity only grows. When violence is common, abuse is normal and conflicts are abounding, our self-righteousness quietly slithers itself toward center stage in a broken world.
As my theology of depravity grows, so does my theology of Christlikeness. I love it when a person genuinely desires not to sin because it’s a remarkable work of God that looks wildly different from person to person. “I would never do that” is an entirely different statement than “By God’s grace alone, I will work hard not to do that.”
The problem lies in believing we’re beyond a specific sin.
When we believe we’re not capable of sinning in a particular way, self-righteousness has successfully slinked its way to the forefront. It’s the kind of danger Satan relishes.
No one is good.
Don’t be deceived when you display righteousness, it’s not from yourself. No one is good, not even one (Rom 3:9). This is the antithesis of what the world is screaming, while the Bible reminds us we are “by nature” children of wrath (Eph 2:3). Whatever the one sin is that you would “never do,” it’s literally in your nature to intuitively do it. We aren’t perfect humans who sometimes sin, we are sinners who sometimes don’t by the grace of God alone. It’s the reality of who we are: sinners. It is only the kindness of God when this becomes: sinners saved by grace alone.
No one is above any sin.
I will never spiritually arrive until I am earthly dead. I am above no sin because I am by nature a child of disobedience, all disobedience. Just because there is not an outward manifestation of sin doesn’t mean there isn’t inward disobedience. I may not get drunk, but I may lust after pleasure without anyone knowing. I may not have an affair, but I may lust after value in my own heart unrevealed to those around me. I may not go over the speed limit, but I may lust after control internally. I may refrain from outward sins, but my motivation may be prideful. Until I am completely sinless in heaven, there’s no sin on earth I’m not capable of committing. Because I’m created as a unique individual with certain likes and dislikes, I’m predisposed to temptations that maybe someone else is not, but it doesn’t mean there’s sin impossible for me to commit.
You are the worst of all sinners.
Apostle Paul understood grace so deeply because he knew his sin so intricately. This is because he had seen his perfect Savior. He stood next to beautiful holiness and saw himself to be the worst sinner of all. Paul doesn’t call himself the worst to make us feel sorry for him, he says it to point every reader to the goodness of Jesus alone.
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15
If I don’t claim to be the worst sinner I know, then I haven’t been looking at God’s holiness. If you dwell on God’s holiness and you’re shocked by anyone’s sin besides your own, then you’re worse off than you realize. Dwelling on the sin of others will only shut our ears to God’s kind rebuke for ourselves.
If we don’t believe that we are the worst of all sinners, it will not only sell us short of God’s glorious grace, but others as well. We’ll begin to expect holiness from people in a way that delivers self-righteous condemnation when they fail, but it’s God’s kindness that brings holy repentance (Rom 2:1-4). This isn’t to say we can’t judge right from wrong; this is to say we can embrace one another amidst sin and shout as loudly as possible about the grace Jesus Christ consistently offers the worst of all sinners. That’s you, and that’s me.
Only God’s grace keeps us from sin.
The truth of the matter is that you will probably do “that” in your heart at some point. Maybe “that” sin doesn’t manifest itself into outward behavior, but it doesn’t mean the seed of sin isn’t trying to grow some devastation without you even knowing (Acts 3:17). We are desperate sinners given the most astounding of all options: Jesus. Being the worst of all sinners makes the gospel of Jesus Christ the good news of Jesus Christ. If we cannot do anything good, if we are above no sin, it must be that our only option is to plead for God’s help and drink deeply of his grace. This grace comes only from a living Savior. One who said, “You’re the worst of all sinners. Your sin is so wicked only I could pay for it, and I did. Repent and believe.”
There’s only one person who would never do “that.” It’s Jesus.