Tonight my small group leader said something that really resonated with me: "When you hear about someone else's wrongdoing, the fastest way to humility is to say to yourself, 'I'm guilty of that.'" The example she used was adultery, which to the women in my Seminary Wives class sounds absolutely heinous. It probably sounds pretty serious to most people, Christian or not. Our immediate response is, "I could never do that to my husband. I would never be guilty of that."
But what is adultery other than unfaithfulness? And haven't I been unfaithful to my spouse? Not through intimacy with another person, perhaps, but through putting myself or my wants at the top of my priority list? or through refusing to really listen to him because I was angry? Moreover, Christ is called our bridegroom, the husband of the church, precisely because his relationship to his people demonstrates the very tenderness and unconditional, gracious love that should exist within the marriage relationship. How often are we unfaithful to Him, our first love?
So, then we can identify with our brothers and sisters in sin not out of some false sense of modesty. Self-deprication is making ourselves out to be worse than we actually believe we are in order to gain people's praise. We don't identify ourselves as sinners for that reason. Rather, we take a steely look at ourselves and say "I am truly guilty of that wrong. I am literally no better, because that same heart attitude often resides within me. It is only by the grace of an Almighty God that I have been saved from the consequences I deserve."
Imagine being able to stand next to a sister or brother caught in a cycle of wrongdoing and say "I'm guilty of that just like you are, but we are both called to more than this."
Christians, there is no better way to restore a fellow believer than with humility and love. Likewise, there is no better way to create a barrier than to say in our hearts "At least I'm not like that." It is so very dangerous to decide that someone else is beyond hope and help, unworthy of restoration or forgiveness, and certainly less worthy than we are of love. If we are to be thought of as members of the same body, would we then say "My arm is diseased and hurting, so I'll immediately count it as lost"? Of course not! In your own physical body, you would take immediate action. There is nothing more harmful to the body at large than to ignore illness in one part and allow it to spread! You would not waste time in giving your body gentle attention and care, treating it with love and tenderness in the hope of restoring it to full health!
We are called to be a body of healthy believers, without factions, without dissension, without pride. We are called to restore with humility and love, and we cannot be humble without a careful examination of our own stubborn, prideful hearts.