You’ve probably heard the saying “All the ground at the foot of the cross is level.” I’m sure that many people who hear it, wonder what it means. Those who understand the phrase may wonder why we would need to state such an obvious fact. Why would we need to tell people that all of us approach God and the forgiveness He offers at the cross on an equal basis. We live in a culture that, to some degree, sees all people as equal before the law. Officially, the rich and the poor have equal standing before the law when tried for a crime. Ok, we all know that some people seem to be in better situations before the courts due to their wealth or some other social designation, but officially we all have the same standing when we present our case before the judge.
In the American justice system, we are innocent until proven guilty. We all have the same standing before God, too. The problem is that our standing before God is that we’re all guilty of sin. This concept was a dividing line between Jews and Gentiles, and one that Paul had to break down as he continued his exposition on our need for Jesus. Jews, as God’s chosen people, had been given the law. As such, they looked down on the Gentiles. What outraged the Jews most about Paul was his belief that God could love Gentiles too; that we all appeared before God on an equal level. “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24)
We all have sinned – those with the written law by not obeying it and those without the written law, by not obeying the natural law written on our hearts. So, while Jews had things written down, Gentiles should have known to follow the natural law. Back then people would judge other people for not following acceptable cultural norms and those judges would be participating in those same sins. This is where the gospel comes for all people. God takes all people, Jew and Gentile alike, who have sinned against Him and offers righteousness to all who believe in Jesus Christ. We are justified, which would be like being declared “Not Guilty” in a modern court because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
What does that mean to us for everyday life? I know some people that get upset if you mention that all people are sinners. They seem to think that they haven’t sinned as badly as other people and imagine themselves on a higher plane than other sinners. Their sin is small, compared to the big sins of others. Do you know people like that? Have you ever thought like that? Think of it this way: since sin poisons our souls and our relationship with God, imagine sin as poison. You have two glasses of water. In the first glass is the poison from the person whose sin is “small.” In the other glass is poison from the person who has big sins. There’s a lot more poison there. Which glass of water would you want to drink? Doesn’t that question sound ridiculous? You wouldn’t want either glass – both would kill you. Paul put it this way when he said that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That’s the bad news. That bad news makes the truth of the gospel that faith in Jesus Christ leads to righteousness with God and justification. In other words, God sees us as not guilty and we can have a great relationship with Him. We can drink the water because it’s been purified – not by our work, but by God’s.
Lord, please remind me that I too have sinned if I ever think that I’m better than another person. Help me, instead, to share Your love and grace with others who need to experience it. Let me life be an example of Your forgiveness and grace to others.