graphic: Martha G. Brady

It was the early 1970’s. A group of women were sitting in my sunroom in Mandeville, Jamaica. We had been studying the book of Mark to learn who Jesus claimed to be…in His own words.

This study turned my world upside down. After some Bible college, two years as an assistant pastor’s wife, and now, a few years as a missionary, I had not “gotten” some of Jesus’ claims in the same way these women who were new or not yet believers.

Why? Why was I so blind to the power and authority that Jesus claimed when He was here on earth? Somehow, I got lost in the forest of Biblical facts I knew and the humdrum of over-familiarity.

These women were often reading these words for the first time in the Bible but they understood the point of most of them better than I. Why was I so blind?

It was like I was seeing the brilliance and light of Jesus’ words and person for the first time! I was a Christian. I loved Jesus. I was willing to leave a comfortable life in the U.S. to share my faith with people in another country. But up to that time, reading the Bible had been mostly an exercise in black, white and gray…my least favorite colors!

What had I missed in all the reading of the Bible up to this point?

The best explanation I can think of is to go back to the story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32. I was the older brother, uh sister. My exposure to the Bible had been in terms of lists of rules, moralistic stories, and idealistic principles that often had no bearing on my life. I kept rules, the list was very long in the subculture where I grew up. It was impossible to keep them all. That didn’t stop me from trying, but it was exhausting!

Just like the older brother, I had a heart problem.

Sadly, I looked down on those who didn’t do as well as I thought I was doing. You know the thinking? Well, at least I haven’t done x or I didn’t commit y. Besides, self-righteousness isn’t really a sin is it?

Yes, it is. It’s one of the chief sins that keep us from humbling ourselves before GOD and acknowledging how much we need Him!

It is also a miserable way to live. It is completely joyless! I was always looking down my nose at those around me to see how much better I was than they, while knowing at a deeper level that I didn’t measure up to the standard GOD has set for me!

I was the kind of person Jesus was most likely to have a tirade against…the privileged person who knew the truth but was focused on external rules instead of a changed heart! Or the person who is focused on pleasing people instead of living a life that honors GOD.

Who were Jesus’ friends? The religious people or sinners?

Who were His friends? Those who knew they were sinners! The religious leaders and those who felt they were “good enough” for a holy GOD were not Jesus’ friends. They had no awareness of how far short they fell of His holy standard.

Yes, I belonged to Christ. But my heart attitude needed to change. I needed to realize I was worse than bankrupt before GOD.

On the outside, I might not bear the same scars the prostitute had in her life or have the same enemies as the tax collector, but I was still affected by the marring of sin in my spirit. It just showed in different ways!

The attitude that showed in the prayers I said in my head were more like the Pharisee, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like this riff raff.” I was arrogant…with no reason to feel that way!

The only thing I had going for me was Jesus’ spotless record! That was it. Without Him and His death in my place, I had nothing to commend me to GOD…absolutely nothing.

Since then, I have been through many humiliating experiences and times where I needed to repent of my arrogant heart. I’m sure I’ll go through many more before I die. But I do know that I am on equal footing with each of my brothers and sisters whose sins are different than mine.

We all need Jesus…desperately, even more than we know!

Photo: Seth Schaeffer

Martha Grimm Brady is a wife of Ron, mom of 3 daughters and grandmother of 7. She just celebrated 47 years of marriage.

She has lived in FL, Jamaica, TX and IL and is now retired to Huntsville, AL. She has written at her blog since 2010 where she writes “at the intersection of the grace of GOD & my gritty story…where GOD transforms me!”

She will be writing about what she learned in Jamaica that prepared her for the rest of her life for the month of October at THE JAMAICA YEARS: GROWTH IN GRACE AND TRUTH. It is part of the #write31days challenge.

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