‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”’ Luke 18.13
What should the ideal relationship with God be like? Actually this is quite a difficult question to answer. You might be tempted to suggest that it should be a life of unbroken intimacy with Jesus; each day marked by your friendship with him.
This parable that Jesus told tells the story of two men who stood before God. One felt justified by his actions and the way he practised his faith, while the other seemed to be so overwhelmed by the wonder and nature of God that he was overcome by his own unworthiness. It is the second man, sinful though he might be, who seems to bear God’s favour.
It is very easy to be aware of our failures, even failures in our Christian life – and there are enough people around who will remind us of them! In this parable, Jesus seemed to be saying that we don’t have to look at our successes or failures because what counts is coming to Jesus in honesty and humility, trusting in his mercy towards us.
If you can come to God, trusting in his goodness rather than in your actions, then perhaps this is the most beautiful relationship you can have with him - and also the one that he most wants to have with you.
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The Revd John Ryeland, Director of The Christian Healing Mission