In the last post, I referred to human sinfulness – or our awareness of it – as “the equalizer.” Karl Barth’s quote reveals how admitting our own sinfulness has a positive result: it evens out the playing field of our lives by removing false notions of “greater and lesser” or “us and them.” When we see ourselves as we really are – as sinners among sinners – we see one another eye to eye, without condescension. We no longer stand on a higher place looking down on those around us. The initial recognition of our failings is painful (Jesus likened it to removing a plank from our eye), and we are certainly free to continue deceiving ourselves, to keep our reserved spot on a pedestal removed from the “others” who we look down upon for a variety of reasons. But when we allow an awareness of our sin to take root – not a self-hating and destructive awareness, but a frank and realistic one – we can move past the initial pain of humility and begin to enjoy its equalizing effects. No longer on a pedestal alone, trying to maintain the farce of our own perfection, we join our friends, family, acquaintances, and even the strangers in our lives with an appreciation for their struggles and a hope that they will see and accept us as we are.
Awareness of our brokenness makes us brothers…but even more importantly, it primes us for the Greatest Equalizer of all, and that of course is love. The one alone on the pedestal needs nothing, receives nothing. He is too busy balancing in a precarious place, too full of himself to perceive a need for another. But those who are aware of their own sin want an antidote, they long for a solution – and they are willing to look beyond themselves for the answer. A sinner – and only a sinner – needs a savior.
It is in our rightful place among our sinful brothers and sisters that we encounter this Savior. He comes at times as one of them, to help us remove the plank from our eye. He does this with love, and he does it to prepare us – in case he should need us to assist him in removing a speck from the eye of another. The very process of salvation is a corporate affair, and in the end – planks and specks removed – we stand together before our God, willing victims of the Great Equalizer.