This question is a common response when people are confronted with the gospel. They know they are sinners, but they comfort themselves with the thought that they are no worse than most people. In spite of their sins and shortcomings, they may try to live by a consistent set of moral values. As long as they have standards and try to be consistent to them, they assume that they are all right from God’s perspective, or at least as good as anyone else.
Although this reaction is typical, it’s wrong. Being a moral person excludes no one from the need for God’s grace. Most people consider themselves moral. Even monsters like Stalin and Hitler had rationalizations to justify their atrocities. If they didn’t have moral standards to lend some consistency and predictability to their behavior, they would never have been able to attract followers and create a political power base. Everyone knows that there is honor among thieves or criminals wouldn’t be able to cooperate. Even the most ghastly cannibals or ruthless pirates have certain moral standards.
People who ask why God would condemn them for being no worse than other people haven’t taken into account the fact that evil has contaminated every member of our race. They also don’t see how seriously the cumulative effect of individual sin has corrupted human society. Consciousness of sin is a gift of God’s Spirit, but it is a gift that we don’t naturally want to receive. Although consciousness of sin is necessary for repentance, salvation, and spiritual growth, consciousness of sin also involves suffering.
Isaiah was one of the greatest of the prophets and one of the most gifted writers of Scripture. His giftedness was a sign of divine honor and blessing, but he paid a price for it. He was given an overwhelming vision of God’s holiness. But he was also given the agony of being aware of his own sinfulness and of the sinfulness of his people:
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5).
Awareness of one’s moral sickness always comes before spiritual growth. Jesus made this clear in many of His statements and parables ( Matthew 9:13 ; Luke 15:3-7; 18:10-14 ). So did the apostles Peter ( 2 Peter 3:9 ) and Paul ( Romans 3:10-31 ).
Few of us attain the infamy of a Hitler, a Pol Pot, or an Idi Amin. But the sin in each of our lives contributes to an evil world that brings such monsters to power. Each of us is so disfigured by sin that it isn’t surprising we don’t want to acknowledge our ugliness. We can only begin to see ourselves objectively with God’s supernatural help.