Jesus once told a parable about two men who went up to the temple to pray. The story uses the motif of prayer, but is really a lesson about pride.
Pride is one of the great sources of struggle for Christians. Seeking to be forgiven our sins and justified before God, we are nonetheless slow to trust God’s grace alone for that justification. Our pride rears its head, and wanting to justify ourselves, we begin to recite our resumes, remember our successes, measure only our own worth, and compare ourselves to others who seem less deserving. The heart cries, ”Thank you God, for making me just a cut above the rest!”
We cannot truly justify ourselves without scapegoating someone else…seeing the fault in others and naming their sin. The great challenge (some would say scandal) of the gospel is that rather than calling us out—separating us from the riffraff of a sinful world around us—Jesus sends us right back into the midst of the others, there to bear witness to our own sin and his saving power.
Sinners are not the others guys, they are you and me. And so we pray “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner….”