J.D. Greear on There is Only One Kind of Sinner

J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


We tend to see people in categories: the successful and the unsuccessful, the intelligent and the dull, the beautiful and the ugly, the fit and the fat, the rich and the poor. Our natural impulse is to assess everyone around us, ranking ourselves against them. We scoff at those “beneath” us and resent those “above” us.

When we think some characteristic or personal accomplishment sets us apart or justifies us before others, we are committing what Charles Spurgeon called the “pride of face and place”—so-called because this type of pride rests on the variables of how we look (face) and where we were born (place).

The Absurdity of the Pride of Face and Place

The pride of face (like pride in any form) shows that we do not fully understand the gospel.

Just think about it for a moment: How much of your physical talents can you actually take credit for? Your parents gave you your genes. God gave you your health and your opportunities. And yet, you may still say that your talents are the result of hard work:

  • You hit the gym on the reg so you can look good on the beach this summer.
  • You work overtime to make sure you’re living the kind of life you want.
  • You read all the best leadership blogs so you can be smarter than everyone else.

Your body, your money, your mind—you think you’ve made them what they are. But does that really hold up? Imagine you’d been born as an orphan refugee in Syria or Somalia. Do you think you’d have succeeded like you did with that start in life? (The only honest answer is “No,” by the way.)

All that you have is a gift. And taking pride in a gift is absurd.

Plus, do any of our talents matter, eternally speaking? We may think it’s nice to be pretty instead of ugly, rich instead of poor. But those metrics don’t do anything to justify us before God!

Before God, we are all sinners. And there is only one kind of sinner. There are not successful, high-capacity sinners with a lot of potential and unpromising, down-and-out sinners. Nope. Just hopeless, dead sinners.

Heaven is not a scholarship program where God rewards the best. The best résumé in God’s eyes, Paul says, is a big, steaming pile of scubala, or “garbage” (to put it mildly).

What we have now in Jesus is worth infinitely more than any of those things anyway.

It doesn’t matter if I’m not that intelligent now, because I am promised I will inherit the mind of Christ.

It doesn’t matter if I’m not beautiful now, because one day Jesus will clothe me in beauty as we “put on Christ” himself. I can be ugly for 70 years because I’ll be beautiful for eternity.

It doesn’t matter if I’m not successful now, because the weakest saints here have still been appointed by Jesus to reign with him as kings and queens eternally.

It doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t appreciate me now, because in Christ I have a Father who rejoices over me with love and dances over me with singing.

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Source: Church Leaders