When it comes to sin, we often think of ourselves like a Pharisee.
"God, I thank you that I am not like other people."
We put so much stock into what we haven't done, what we didn't say, and what we'd never dream of doing, that we become more pharisaical by the day. And just like the pharisees, we do anything we can to keep our conscience clear.
For example, when the Jewish leaders brought Jesus to Pilate, they only brought him so far as the door so as not to defile themselves by entering a Gentile's home.
I repeat, while the pharisees were handing over Jesus to be murdered, they were worried about being ceremonially clean for the passover feast.
And then when Pilate tells them to "take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your law," they refuse because the power of capital punishment is reserved for Rome. So once again, they want to kill Jesus, but they won't do it themselves because they don't want to break a Roman law.
And finally you have Pilate trying everything he can think of to keep Jesus' blood off his hands. He brings Jesus out before the Jews over and over and tells them to deal with Him on their own. But they refuse and finally Pilate gives in and allows Jesus to be crucified.
Here we have two groups of people worried about all the wrong things. Neither side wants to take responsibility and everyone is looking to cleanse their own conscience of any wrongdoing.
But ultimately, they have all sinned in their hearts, just like we do everyday. And Jesus tells us that just by looking at someone lustfully, we have already committed adultery in our hearts. And just by being angry with another, we have brought judgment upon ourselves.
So as we perform moral gymnastics in our heads, hoping to appease our guilt and wipe clean our hands, we should know that sins of the heart are just as damning as outward sins, and we would do best to lay those sins at the cross, instead of trying to inwardly justify or compare them to other "worse sins."
And because the eternal consequence of sin of the heart is the same as any other sin, the remedy is also the same. Look to Jesus. The efficacy of Jesus' death and resurrection for our forgiveness and salvation is definite. No matter the sin.
Unlike the pharisees who handed over Jesus to be killed, Paul, a former pharisee, calls himself the chief of sinners. He doesn't placate his sin by comparing it to others' and he makes no attempt to hide his wrongdoing. He knows he's forgiven, and he feels no need to dwell on past sins.
So don't fret. Don't wallow. Don't appease your guilt. Give it to Jesus. Ask for forgiveness and live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Whether you feel like the pharisees, who underestimated their sins, or you feel like Paul, who understood his own failures, the answer is the same.
All have sinned. But the gift of God is eternal life and that gift is offered through Jesus.
"If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9