March 30, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Lamentations 1:5, 8 (NRSV)
Her foes have become the masters,
her enemies prosper,
because the LORD has made her suffer
for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
captives before the foe. . . .
Jerusalem sinned grievously,
so she has become a mockery;
all who honored her despise her,
for they have seen her nakedness;
she herself groans,
and turns her face away.
Though some are quick to point fingers of judgment at others, Scripture teaches us to attend to our own failures and shortcomings. By being fully honest with God about our sins, we are able to experience the forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began to consider the implications of a portion of Lamentations 1:5: “[The] LORD has made [Judah] suffer for the multitude of her transgressions.” I noted that Scripture teaches, in this verse and others, the unsettling truth that God does at times bring pain into our lives. But I strongly warned us not to start pronouncing judgment on others in light of this fact.
For one thing, we are on dangerous ground when we pronounce judgment on others as if we are free from guilt ourselves. If we read Jeremiah 1:5 out of context, it might sound as if the writer is standing back from the grief of Judah. Yet, the rest of the book makes it abundantly clear that the writer is sharing fully in the suffering and sin of his people. He might just as well have written, “The Lord made us suffer, including me, for the multitude of our transgressions.”
This is part of what concerns me when Christian pundits purport to identify God’s judgment on others while completely ignoring what God might be saying to them. Occasionally in Scripture God speaks through the prophets to judge the nations. But, in the vast majority of cases, the prophets pronounce judgment upon the people of which they are a part. They proclaim God’s judgment on us, not them.
These days, it’s easy to point pious fingers at the sins of others. Ironically, I suppose, I do this most often when judging those who pronounce God’s judgment on others. (Hmmm. What do I have to learn here?) Yet, I must ask myself how open I am to receiving God’s judgment of my sin and the sin of my people, the church. Am I willing to be admonished by God’s Word in Scripture? Am I open to the possibility that God is using painful things in my life to help me grow in my faith?
During the season of Lent, I am reflecting each day on a portion of Scripture in which the acknowledgment of sin is a major theme. Psalm 51 begins in this way:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:1-5).
Talk about an open acknowledgment of one’s personal sins! The example of this psalm teaches and inspires me to be open with God about my own sins, my personal failings, my shortcomings. I do so with the confidence that God already knows everything I might confess and that because of Christ, my sins are forgiven. As it says in 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
How can we avoid self-righteousness as Christians?
What helps you to confess your own sins honestly and openly to God?
Set aside some time in the next day or two for personal confession.
Gracious God, I admit that sometimes I like to build myself up by focusing on the sins of others. I suppose I’m even tempted to take solace in the thought that you are judging them and not me. Forgive me, Lord, for my self-righteousness. Forgive me for my lack of compassion. Forgive me for my hard-heartedness.
Give me ears to hear what you would say to me. Give me eyes to see your work in my life. Give me a heart open to confession and ready for repentance.
All praise be to you, O God, because you are making me more and more like you, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: What Can You Offer to God?
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Pride is involved when we don’t think we have sinned. We are still in our flesh and as long as we are the Spirit will war against it so we may not do what we want.
Outside of heaven we are not perfect and it’s hubris to think we are. However that does not give us license to sin; rather it should make us more alert to what the Spirit is doing in our lives.