Summary: There Is NO Difference 1) All have sinned 2) All have been forgiven
It’s been a few days since she was here but the newspapers are still talking about her visit. It’s as if they are determined to interview every person that spoke with her, and analyze every wave she directed to the adoring crowds. Even when the newspapers finally do turn their attention to other things, we’ll be reminded of her visit every time we head south on the road once known as Highway 2 – a road that has been renamed after Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
All the coverage about the Queen’s visit to our province got me thinking. What makes the Queen so special? Why does she get to wear expensive clothes and jewels? Why do thousands of people turn out to catch a glimpse of her? Why do they rename highways after her? What does she have that you and I don’t? What she has, of course, is royal blood. That’s what sets her apart from us commoners. But does royal blood really make the Queen that different from us? Not really. The Queen still has two arms and legs, eyes and ears, and has to eat to survive like the rest of us. In fact our sermon text goes even further and says that there is no difference between the Queen and the rest of us for we all have sinned and we all have been forgiven.
“There is NO difference!” That was a truth the Christian congregations in Rome needed to hear. These congregations were made up of both Jewish and non-Jewish people. On the surface there seemed to be a big difference between the two groups. They looked different. They ate different kinds of food. And they no doubt enjoyed different pastimes. In spite of this diversity the Apostle Paul claimed that there was no difference between the two groups when it came to spiritual matters. Paul said: “There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22b, 23).
Although the Jewish people often thought they were better than the godless Gentiles, Paul popped that bubble when he said that the Jewish people were as guilty as the Gentiles of sinning. Sure the Jews may have grown up reading Scripture while the Gentiles bowed down to idols, but that didn’t mean that the Jews didn’t need to repent of sin as much as the Gentiles did.
When we hear Paul say that all have sinned, we dare not suppose he meant: “All of them sinned.” No, whether you’re the Queen of England or a little girl dressing-up to play the part of the Queen, you have done what God does not want you to do, and failed to do that which God wants you to do. We are all guilty of sinning.
So what? We all know that no one is perfect. What’s the big deal? Sin is a big deal. Even if we just commit one sin, no matter what it is, it is enough to block our way into heaven and sink us into hell. Does it seem farfetched that one sin would keep us out of heaven? It wouldn’t if you’ve ever been in a rowboat that sprung a leak in the middle of the lake. Just as one little hole can cause a rowboat to fill with water and sink before you know it, so one unkind word will sink our hopes of making it into heaven on our own.
The thing is we commit many sins a day. What would it feel like if, for every sin, a marble were dropped on our head? (illustration adapted from Rom. 3:23, 24 sermon by John Brug) If every time we have an unkind thought (with the mention of each sin a marble is tossed into a plastic pail at the preacher’s feet), every time we disobey our parents, every time we fight with our brother or sister, anytime we shade the truth to our advantage, anytime we are inattentive and half-hearted in worship, anytime we think the task we are doing for the church is more important that the Savior we are serving, if for every sin a marble came crashing into our skull, how long do you think you could remain standing? Now multiply those sins by the hours, days, months, and years of our lives (as this last sentence is said, a jar of marbles is poured out all at once into the pail at the preacher’s feet). Just as tons of cascading snow and ice bury skiers so they don’t even know which way is up, our sins have buried us so that we can’t even put our arms above our head to reach for the glories of heaven. No, it’s not just the murderers, the drug dealers, the corrupt politicians that are buried under such a mountain of sin; we all are – whether you’re the Queen, the Pope, or a one-day-old baby. There is NO difference. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.