“I am the chief sinner.”
Who would say something like that? We might be ready to nominate someone else for “chief sinner” at times, but we don’t often suggest ourselves.
But in a letter to a young pastor, Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all” (1 Timothy 1:15, NLT). This is the same man who wrote much of the New Testament and who was beaten, flogged, stoned, imprisoned, and finally beheaded for his devotion to Christ. Paul also said, “I am less than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8, NIV). It is true that Paul persecuted Christians before he became one himself; but even so, we wouldn’t call him the worst sinner of all. Is this some kind of unusual humility, unique to Paul?
Or could it be that he is modeling something for us? Maybe Paul was demonstrating something important for all of us as Christ-followers.
Is everyone the worst one?
Jesus told us that even though we have a log in our own eye, we pay more attention to the speck in our brother’s eye—or our spouse’s eye. Why does God say that we have a log and that someone else has only a speck? I think this is always true because the Spirit of God reveals to us the sin in our own heart, not the heart of someone else. The only heart we can know is our own. God will always reveal to us far more junk in our own heart than we can see in our spouse’s heart.
We tend to get distracted by behavior. We focus on outward actions, but remember – God looks at the heart. If we will start to look at hearts as God does, we will see our own heaping mound of pride, rejection of God, and rebellion. We’ll finally see our big log of sin, compared to just a speck of someone else’s. We know that others are sinners, too, because God tells us that, but we can’t see more than that speck because we cannot see into the hearts of others.
If I do not see a ton of junk in my own heart for every speck I see in my spouse’s heart, then I do not have godly vision. Instead, I have sinful, self-deceived vision.
How does that change marriage?
When we can say, “I am the chief sinner in this situation,” then we are able to act much more redemptively. A posture of humility allows us to reach the feet that we say we want to wash.
This is not self-hatred, and it is not demeaning. It is God-honoring humility.
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. (Ephesians 4:2, NLT)
Christ is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:28, NIV). He is the God who stoops down to make us great (Psalm 18:35, NIV). Through the enabling of the Spirit, we can have a humility that reflects God.
We can say to our spouses:
I can forgive you because Christ has forgiven me of MORE.
I can be patient with you because Christ has been MORE patient with me.
I can give you grace because Christ has given me MORE grace.
I have betrayed and rejected and mistreated Christ far MORE than you have betrayed or rejected or mistreated me.
I am the chief sinner, and it is an honor to serve you.
How would life be different if we had that understanding? How would we handle our disagreements and our confrontations differently? “I am the chief sinner, and it is an honor to serve you.”
It is not a line, and it is not a gimmick. It’s the truth. How would your marriage change if this were your constant attitude toward your spouse? “I am the chief sinner, and it is an honor to serve you.”