Perhaps the most offensive claim of the gospel is that a hate-filled cannibalistic child molester finds the same redemption and has an equal status in the eyes of God as your dear old church lovin’, bake-sale havin’, baby burpin’ granny. The truth that there is only one way to salvation for granny and the cannibal is equally comforting and offensive. It’s offensive to the vestiges of self-righteousness in our own heart but it is a great comfort to those acquainted with the darkness of their own hearts.
In the late 1700’s John Newton wrote a letter to a dejected pastor that was stricken with illness and despair. This man felt that though he had preached to many and rejoiced in seeing their having found grace he was not sure that he himself could be pardoned. Newton did what any good pastor does to those that are in despair—he preached to him the gospel. His counsel here is especially rich:
When the brazen serpent was erected in the wilderness, to cure those who must otherwise have died, the benefit was not restrained to those who had been bitten by the fiery serpent but once or a few times. The worst case amongst the people was relieved as soon and as certainly as the very slightest. The remedy was universally proposed to every person. The application was easy; it was only, look and live. But if a man had spent all his time in measuring or counting his wounds, instead of looking to the ordinance of God, he might have died, though the means of life were within his view. The sense of the evil of sin is given to quicken application to Christ, and not to discourage our approach. The Scripture has concluded all under sin, and as such we are all condemned already. But the Gospel proclaims a free pardon to everyone who, with the eye of his mind, looks for life to him who hung upon the cross. (Letters of John Newton, 198, emphasis mine)
If you find yourself in despair over the greatness of your sin do not spend your time counting your wounds or licking them. Turn your eyes away from your serpent bite and fix your eyes on the blood-drenched yet resurrection healed face of Jesus. This is the remedy whether you find yourself a cookie makin’ granny or an openly shamed sinner.