Chief of Sinners

Some of the deeper ponderings now...

I was rereading Acts 9 last week.  It is the account of Saul's conversion.  I was struck anew by the section.

I once had a friend once tell me that after reading through the Gospels, he was convinced that if there was someone not to imitate, it was the Pharisees.  It is true, really, Jesus doesn't even give them the time of day most of the time, and when he does, he ends up exasperated.  It's like talking to someone who always knows is a frustrating experience (please no slighting comments on the irony of me writing those words.  :)).

So the question I was asking myself last week was why Paul.  He seemed to be the exact opposite of the typical disciple mold.  He was hardened to the point of killing disciples.  Proud of his own zealousness.  Perfect in regard to the law as far as he was concerned.  This person sounds more like the assemblies of religious zealots that questioned Jesus, but got no answer, than a man after God's own heart.  His pride...really, that is what struck me.  But God chose him.

So this all got me thinking to the passage where he refers to himself as the chief of sinners.  I always thought he said that about himself because he had killed disciples of Christ, or he was just being humble, thinking himself worse than he really was.  But it occurred to me, that he was the chief of sinners.  He had served himself, his pride and his own god (the law).  Not the true and living God, but one he created.  He was the worst of sinners, a man with a hardened heart towards the true God.  But as Paul himself says in 1 Timothy 1, it was to show God's perfect patience.  The fact that despite being the furthest from needing God, God came to him, and by His mercy changed him.

And then I began to think about perspective on sin.  I have ranks on sins, even if I don't want to admit it.  But I always thought pride should go closer to the bottom, because everyone struggles with it.  But I'm pretty sure I was wrong.  I think pride tops the list, and although pride leads to many other sins, it also manifests itself in the form of being better than those sinners.  I spend my day teaching my children to work hard at all they do, make healthy lifestyle choices, and develop self-discipline, but if I don't spend even more time showing other mercy, understanding the perspectives of others and humbling myself before God, I am just encouraging my children to become the chief of sinners.

To be more blatant...I often worry about my children being promiscuous, lazy, or ending up in prison; but I never think, "what if my child ends up being arrogant".  I mean, I know it is a bad character trait, but I always thought it would be better than the alternatives.  Apparently not.


Megan said...

Hmm...good thoughts. It's true..we do have "sin rankings" whether we want to admit it or not. Some are more "acceptable" in our eyes than others. And it seems there are certain sins that in some Christian circles are downright (almost) unforgiveable.
On the pride community group at church has been working through Deutoronomy (fun times, right?) and it's been really good and insightful. When reading through the 10 commandments, our leader summed it up by saying that the first 5 commandments have to do with our relationship with God and the second 5 have to do with our relationships with others...
He pointed out that "pride" seems to be the common denominator for breaking any of the second 5 which I thought was a really good point I'd not realized before. I know being a follower of Jesus is not about having awesome reflections, but about action as well...but oftentimes good reflections can bring about a change in action. All that to say that the "pride" thing is an "iceburg" sin...I just came up with that. Someone else has probably already coined it so no need to be prideful:) It's such a big problem that doesn't seem like a big deal at first (the 10%above the surface) but when you get to the root of it, it causes so many other sins and wreaks havok in so many other ways (the 90% below the surface).
I probably could have said all of that in 2 sentences...