“For by the grace given me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Romans 12:3
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
Phil Vischer wrote the tale of Sidney and Norman: two simple pigs who brought tears to my eyes the first time I read their story.
It goes a little like this: Sidney and Norman were two pig neighbors, but they didn’t acknowledge each other much. Norman was the perfect one; everyone liked him and praised him all the time. His house was neat, he gave to charity, and showed up to church every Sunday. He never could understand why everyone else couldn’t do the same. To Sidney on the other hand, nothing came easily, and other pigs were always frustrated with him. He was messy, always late, and constantly frustrated at himself. Either of these sound familiar?
The two little pigs had nothing in common, but one day, they received identical notes in the mail, notes from God himself, asking them to come visit him. Norman was so excited to see God, just knowing he was going to be praised for what a good pig he was; but instead, God shocked him by saying, “First of all, I love you . . . Secondly, your goodness is not the reason I love you.” God went on to tell the prideful pig that he can’t look down on others because things aren’t as easy for them, for God loves them too, and it’s not right to look down on those God loves.
Meanwhile, Sidney was shaking, convinced God was going to chide him for his messiness, just like everyone had before. Instead, God simply said, “First of all, I love you. Secondly, I love you. And thirdly, I love you.” As Sidney left, he realized there was no way he could have fooled God, He simply loved him, messiness and all.
Of course, this being a storybook, the pigs eventually became good friends, each made better through his conversation with God. It’s a simple tale, but one that I bet rings true with a part of all of us.
There are moments when we feel like Norman, trucking along, boosting ourselves up with our goodness, inwardly turning our nose up at others who don’t do the same. And yet, we also have days like Sidney, where we just can’t seem to get anything right. Our sin and messiness tug at our hearts all the time until they seem almost too heavy to bear.
The good news is that we have a Lord who embraces us in both seasons, drawing our eyes to the reality of our sin but comforting us in his ever present love. Tim Keller says, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
The gospel gives you an identity greater than your goodness here on earth; an identity in Jesus’ perfection, lifting the pressure to be perfect and the utter hopelessness over our brokenness. It de-puffed Norman and comforted Sidney and will steady you through every up and down of life.