The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ [Luke 18:11,13 CEB]
The season of Lent has been traditionally a time of reflection and confession of our sins in preparation for Easter Sunday. Because it is a season where one dwelt on and lamented over their sins, the season of Lent sometimes takes on a somber and dismal mood.
Why dwell on the things that bring us down? Focus on those things that build us up. Everyone needs to have a healthy self-esteem by focusing on the good points, practicing positive reinforcements, and combating that critical inner voice. Nothing good can come out of facing our mortality and our sin. Don’t go there. It can only make things depressing and miserable. Why must we focus on the bad things in our lives?
Besides, we find ourselves saying, OK, I’m not perfect; I have some things I need to work on. But then we become very clever in our denial. Well, I’m not as bad as that guy. Isn’t that what the Pharisee was saying in the story from Luke? Even the most despicable of persons can find someone who is more despicable than they are. So, I’m not the one who needs to examine myself, it’s that other guy. Hopefully God grades on the curve, and I am better than average.
Yet the whole motive for dwelling on our faults and our sin is not to make us feel miserable and worthless but is to allow us to be freed from the things that hinder our relationship with God. It is to remind us that God is not with us simply to console, affirm, heal, and love us; yet is with us to challenge our illusions and confront our personal idolatries.
No, God wants only to free you up.
Free you through forgiveness.