By Tank Tankersley,
“God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are…” (Luke 18:11).
God, I am not a sicko, a pervert, a street punk. I do not harm little children. I do not peddle dope. I do not murder people for their sneakers.
God, I am not a corporate desperado. I do not lie, cheat, and steal, all in an effort to up my paltry ten-million a year salary to twenty-million, a sum more appropriate for one as exalted as I. I do not destroy the life-savings of those with little so that I might wallow in a life of luxury.
God, I am not like those “Hollywood-types” who live as if making an obscene gesture in your very face, those who live so as to make Sodom and Gomorrah appear as capitals of righteousness.
God, I am not like those people in Washington who embrace the sordid and reject the divine, who set your law at naught and smirk and boast while doing so, who align themselves with the base and vile.
It is easy to so delude ourselves, isn’t it? We live in a pretty disgusting world, a world whose values have never been more drastically at odds with God’s than they are today. And those in positions of responsibility, positions of authority, seem intent not upon getting us turned around, but rather upon throwing fuel on the hellish fire.
But just about the time I get to feeling pretty good about myself, given all the evil that compasses me about, I recall that it was the penitent publican, not the self-righteous Pharisee, who “went down to his house justified.” (Luke 18:14)
And just about the time I start to think that I compare pretty favorably with a lot of folks, I am forced to concede that the gulf between Mother Teresa and Hitler is nothing when compared to the chasm between God and me. I am not as much like Paul as I would like to be, but one conviction we share. Like him, I am well aware that of sinners “I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
“Just as I am, without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me.” Charlotte Elliott wrote those words in 1834(?). Fifteen words, a mere fifteen words, but it is doubtful that an hour-long sermon could improve upon them.
I can make no other plea. There is nothing else. Nothing I can even think, say, or do makes me deserving of Heaven. What I deserve is Hell, and I know it. But Jesus’ blood was shed for me, and because it was I can spend eternity in his presence.
God loves me, the unlovable. The cross, where God in the flesh died, is the perfect manifestation of that love. God’s love, the incarnation, the cross, the resurection. That’s it. That’s all. There is nothing else. But, praise God, that is enough.