The sign for the 5K cross country ski race caught my attention. I was 27 years old, sufficiently athletic, and hailed from Michigan. What advantage could these Ohio people have over me? When race day arrived, I showed up with my fish-scale bottom skis, wearing blue jeans and a sweater. Most others zipped up wind-resistant body suits and carefully evaluated the snow to determine exactly which wax to apply to what skis. (“Uh-oh.”) A quarter mile into the race, I realized I was in way over my head. I thought my lips—already frozen from sucking in large volumes of 20-something degree air—would drop off like icicles and that my heart would pound right out of my chest. Fortunately, there were no casualties that day, except my pride, which kept me going all the way to the finish line where my wife greeted me: “Are you OK? You don’t look so good.”
It’s a common problem borne out of naiveté or pride—we benchmark ourselves to performance standards too low, which leads us to assessment conclusions too high. We don’t comprehend just how good “good” can be until we encounter “excellent,” “elite,” or “perfection.” This happens in a spiritual sense, as well, when we evaluate humanity against our own human standards and conclude people are undeserving of God’s judgment and in no need of a Savior. But God is perfect, and His elite standards mirror His divine nature. We may benchmark ourselves to ourselves, but God’s high bar for us is purity, which reflects His very nature. And against His greatness, our idea of “goodness” is exposed as something far less than what we had thought it to be. As Jesus himself said, “No one is good—except God alone.”1
We are broken people, unable to meet God’s lofty expectations or even our own low ones. And certainly God will judge us, but not as one delighting in some cosmic game of “Got-‘cha.” To the contrary, Paul writes, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”2 In Christ, God stared down our imperfections, declared them for what they were, and then paid their price through the life of His Son. For our God is all about turning sinners into winners.
Father, thank you for imputing the righteousness of Christ to an undeserving me. Fill me with your goodness, that I would be of some good to the people I encounter today. Amen.
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10)
[Read today’s Scripture in Romans 5:6-11.]
1 Luke 18:19
2 Romans 5:8