Imagine, if you will, a little girl in one of the dark and desperate corners of the world like Somalia or Sudan. She lives in abject poverty and in fact has been sold to a brothel owner as a child prostitute. Now imagine your dear friend traveling to this little girl's region maybe on an evangelistic trip or some sort of mercy mission. She meets the girl and is overcome with pity and compassion. She determines to save her by offering the most precious and valuable thing she has: she will sacrifice her own daughter's life in exchange for the life and freedom of this little girl. In other words, she loved this girl so much that she gave her only begotten daughter so that this little girl might be saved from a life of poverty and horror.Astute readers familiar with the Bible no doubt noted the gospel overtones in my little story--a story which, by the way, isn't in fact my own but one I heard presented as a metaphor for the gospel. Certainly the description of the helpless little girl captures to some extent the desperation of those unable to save themselves from their sin. And, by drawing a comparison of a real life daughter being given to save another, it also pictures something of the radical nature of God's grace in the sacrifice of His Son. But, whatever kernels of truth it may contain, it is an incomplete portrayal of our sinfulness before God and thus a narrow and inadequate and incorrect representation of the gospel.
Romans 5:6 tells us that "While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." In other words, here's the sort of people that Christ saves: weak and ungodly. The two terms are linked together telling us that the weakness Paul is describing in this verse isn't a physical weakness but rather a moral weakness, a shameful inability as well as a willful disinclination to do good or be good. A morally weak person has much in her past (and present) that ought to make her ashamed. She isn't weak in terms of being a victim to another's wickedness; she is herself ungodly and sin-sick, doomed by her depravity to die and suffer an eternity in hell.
But the good news of the gospel is that there is hope! Christ came to earth not for the well but for the sick, not the righteous but the unrighteous! Glory to God, Jesus died for the weak and the ungodly. See what measure of grace He has granted us: "God shows his love for us in while we still sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) We are sinners--weak and ungodly--but Christ died for us.
Listen, when it comes to your sinful state before God, you are not a helpless victim nor innocent prey. In our sin we are all of us morally weak and tragically, desperately ungodly. The Bible says that we are dead in our trespasses and sins, by our very nature of children of wrath, justly deserving the judgment of God because of our wickedness and depravity. To borrow on the aforementioned metaphor, you are not the poor pitiful little girl deserving compassion but rather the wicked brothel owner guilty of unspeakable transgressions against the holy and righteous God of the universe and yet, still, Christ died for you. He loves you, He redeems you, and He not only canceled your vast sin debt but He gave to you His perfect, sinless righteousness. Amazing grace!
Are you convinced of your sin? Do you know your wickedness? Do you see the condemnation that is rightly yours? Cast yourself before the mercy of the Lord! He died for sinners just like you (and me), and in His grace He saves to the uttermost those who call upon His name. Are you weak? Ungodly? Your only hope is Christ! Rejoice in God and His Son Jesus through whom we have received so great a salvation as a free gift of grace!
Author's note: My pastor preached on Romans 5 this past Sunday and I shamelessly employed some of his points in this post (but not the story at the start--that is from another source which shall remain anonymous). If you're interested in listening to the sermon--and I highly recommend you do--click here.