I came across this quote while researching for my sermon this week. Concerning the crisis in Fergeson, it’s a humbling reminder to all of us (myself included) who are pointing fingers in our hearts and on social media.
Wherever the line is drawn between good and evil, between acceptable and unacceptable, between kind and cruel, between clean and dirty, we’re always going to be voting on both sides of it, despite ourselves.
(Sin) is what flying a plane into a skyscraper has in common with persecuting the fat kid with zits. It’s what doing crystal meth has in common with having an affair with someone you don’t even like. It’s what a murder… has in common with telling a story at a dinner party at the expense of an absent mutual friend, a story which you know will cause pain when it gets back to them but which you tell anyway, because it’s just very, very funny. Little, large, venial, deadly, in hot blood or in cold blood, done actively or allowed to happen through negligence–there’s a look the instances of (sin) have in common, elusive to summarize but unmistakable when seen: a certain self-pleasing smirk.
Christianity wants us to know the look when we see it in the mirror, and to know it too when we see it reflected in other people. Christians are supposed to understand the family resemblance makes us family even with the nastiest and most frightening of our brothers and sisters: a different kind of continuum. We’re supposed to do our fallible, failing best to perceive the other bad people as kin.
I share this quote because it reminds me that there’s no room for self-righteousness in this crisis. To post that it’s about a kid who robbed a convenience store, a cop with a racists streak, people not getting what they want, or a broken system simplifies things too much. Ferguson is on a grand scale what St. Paul wrote 2,000 years ago:
Romans 3:10-18 “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
My point is simply this: none of us has a right to be self-righteous here! When it comes to Ferguson, when it comes to any sin, we all have the blood on our hands. Total depravity is evenly distributed. And as Spufford says, this makes us family even with the nastiest and most frightening of our brothers and sisters in the human race. Lord have mercy (thankfully he does)…
Francis Spuffor “Unapologetic“