I always laugh at the teenage girl who says the word “literally” too much.
“I literally can’t even.” I am not sure what that even means.
“I literally can’t breathe.” You are literally breathing when you said that. “Literally.”
Sometimes in Scripture there are figurative statements. These statements aren’t meant to be taken in the most basic sense but are illustrative and metaphorical. I’m not sure the following statement is one of those.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”1 Timothy 1:15–16 (NIV)
The Apostle Paul spoke of himself as being the worst sinner He knew. I don’t think there is anybody who would look at the person Paul was before he became a Christian and say, “he was a good guy.” However, I’m not sure we would say he was “literally” the worst sinner. What is interesting about this statement to me is Paul says this about his current self. When Paul wrote this, He was in Christ, perfected by Jesus’ blood, and living a radical and sacrificial life for God. So why does Paul say this? He said this because it was his actual view of himself in light of the Jesus he knew.
I believe there are benefits to the Christian having this view of themself.
1. We will live in complete dependence on Jesus’ grace.
If we realize how sinful we are, we should also realize there is only one person who has the ability to save us. We can try as hard as we can, but we will never be able to save ourselves. Thank God Jesus Christ came to save sinners! When we see our wretchedness, we should also see Jesus who makes us a way for us. Seeing ourselves as the chief of sinners should point us to man on the cross who can save the worst of the worst. Then like Paul, we live life dependent upon Jesus’ grace.
2. We will be forgiving and patient with those who sin against us.
When others sin against us, we often hold grudges, cut off communication, sin against them in return, and further damage the relationship. In short, we respond contrary to how Jesus responds to our sin. If we will see ourselves the way Paul did, there would be far more patience and forgiveness offered because our God was long-suffering and kind to us. How can we refuse to forgive others when we see ourselves as the worst sinner whom Jesus saved in spite of ourselves? Seeing ourselves as the worst of sinners helps us in our response to fellow man.
3. We will share the love of God with others.
Paul did not live a life sharing the love of God only because he was a terrible sinner. He lived a life sharing the love of God because Jesus loved and forgave him, a terrible sinner. In a world filled with people who think “I’m not that bad” or “I’m pretty good”, Jesus reminds us that we are wholly lost because of our evil desires. But it's not only bad news. The good news is He has done everything He possibly can to redeem us. If we believe the good news of Jesus, we will share this love with those around us.
You aren’t good. I’m not good. But Jesus is. I pray we will remember this every day and allow it to shape our lives and interactions with the people around us.
God loves you and I love you too.