The way I see my own problem affects the way I treat others. It affects the way I help others. It affects who I think is lovable.
Failed Attempts to Fix Ourselves
I have met people who think that they won’t sin if they can just avoid bad places, bad people, and bad activities. They believe that to pursue holiness is to avoid something. The problem is outside. Holiness is a to-do list. I think this is misguided. We should avoid temptations, but ask yourself this: Am I avoiding something because I have a problem or because it is a problem? There can be a false humility to all this. Think about it. If the problem always lies in everything else or everyone else, isn’t that view the product of pride?
Of course, not all avoidance is pride, but some avoidance is pride. Jesus had hard words to say to proud people: “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matt. 15:13–14).
Jesus used the imagery of a blind man leading other blind men to show the hypocrisy in self-righteous religion. Jesus criticized the Jewish sect known as the Pharisees. The Pharisees thought that they obeyed the law. They pursued holiness through human effort, programs, and human methods. They thought their efforts would help them become better people, more spiritual people.
Jesus’ point wasn’t that you and I need to get our hearts right before the Lord. We can’t. That is the point. Our problem is pride. We think we are okay. And if we find a problem in ourselves, we think we can fix it, or buy the right self-help book that will teach us how to fix it. We think that our methods and programs will make us holy. They won’t. Only God can save us. Only God can make us holy.
Hope for Blindness
God’s method is to humble us so that we can trust Jesus to give us salvation. Jesus died for us and sent the Holy Spirit to us to humble us, so that we can see our problem, confess our sin, and trust in Jesus to save us. As we trust in Jesus, we are learning to give up trying to fix ourselves and make ourselves presentable before God. We are always learning to trust that God accepts us sinners because Jesus was righteous. For the rest of our lives we will still be sinners, on the inside—in our thoughts and hearts. Any holiness or sanctification we experience is partial and imperfect. In this life we are sanctified enough to see our problem and struggle to live as Christians, but not enough to gain the sort of victory in which sin becomes a fading memory.
The Apostle Paul instructs believers regarding how to help one another in the ongoing fight against sin:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Gal. 6:1–3)
When those around us are caught sinning, watch out. When people sin, we seek their restoration carefully so as not to fall into the same mess ourselves. If you think you are above some sin, you are not the person to restore anyone. You are a blind guide. We all sin. We all need Jesus. Let us trust him, and seek to bear one another’s burdens as fellow sinners trusting in Jesus.