The Worst of All Sinners
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he reveals his own heart and history to Timothy and to the rest of us. He speaks for us as well. He writes of his own sinfulness with the honesty that comes from true humility: “I was a blasphemer and a persecutor, and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.” (1Tim. 1:13) He tells Timothy, “This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Tim. 1:15)
Well, there it is. If we are honest with ourselves, we too can say that of all the sinners, I am the worst. This is, of course, not a measurable reality. The idea of ranking sinners is merely a human construct. But the fact is that I know myself as a sinner. I know my sins. But I also know that, in my ignorance, I may have sinned and not known it to be a sin. Still, as Paul tells us here, God’s mercy is bountiful, when we turn to Him for it. When, in the sudden realization of humility, we come to recognize our sinfulness, and humbly turn to God for His mercy, He will generously pour out his grace on us. He will strengthen our faith and fill us with abundant love so that we will be able to live a life in union with Christ Jesus.
When this happens, we can, like Paul, say, “I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength for my work. I thank him for considering me worthy and appointing me to serve him…” In these simple words, Paul has shown us our own fallen nature and God’s perfect nature. He reveals to us the dynamic, fruitful relationship that we can have with God and that God wants to have with us. What greater desire could there be than to be freed from the chains of sin, in order to willingly, and joyfully, begin to serve the “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”? (Ephesians 4:6)