One of the most important things that we confess every week is that we are not good. We are not even a little bit good. We love to compare ourselves to other people; we love to excuse our evil by pointing at other people who we think are worse than ourselves. Well, I’m not as bad as him; I’m not as bad as her. But we are not good. We are backbiters and liars; we are full of jealousies and hatreds. We are quick to take offense; we are slow to forgive. And despite all of this, God is the faithful Lover who prepares this world for us every day. He draws the sun into the sky; He spins the earth in its orbit. He winds up our bodies while we sleep. He puts food in our refrigerators and piles it on our tables. He blows air into our lungs and walks beside us, holding us up, defending us from harm and evil. He runs before us in this world, preparing good things. He sends us warmth and comfort; He sends us friends and gifts. He sent us His Son. He smiles at us day after day, and He speaks to us in His Word, writing us letters, assuring us that He loves us and that we are His and that we are forgiven. And He does this day after day like a faithful Husband, like a faithful Lover. And so often, we hardly even notice. We are so easily distracted. God piles up gifts all around us, and we whine because some of them are not as big as we wanted. We have bad attitudes when there are only 4000 presents, and we think we’re getting ripped off when something doesn’t go our way.
Why do we do this? Why do we snap our children? Why do we get impatient with our spouses? Why do tell lies to our friends? Why do we look the other way when someone is in need? Because we are not good. We are not good. We are evil. We are perverse. We love sin. We love injustice. We are covered in filth. “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are like filthy rags…” (Is. 54:6) And it is only from this position of complete desperation, only from the position of absolute need that we have any hope. It is only when you have come to the very end of yourself. When you see and you are utterly convinced that there is nothing good in you, when you have no hope, when you have no alternative, when you have nowhere else to turn. When you are powerless, when you are disgusted with your sin, when you absolutely hate yourself, it is only then that there is hope. But because we are evil, we do not want to admit that we are evil. And this is one of the most dangerous and challenging aspects of growing up and being in the Church. It’s so perilously easy to believe that being in the Church means that you are good or that you are at least trying to be good. But it is only when we admit completely and whole heartedly that we are not good, it is only when we call out to Jesus in desperation that we can have hope because He only came for people who are not good.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mt. 9:13)