“Alas and did my savior bleed, and did my sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head for such a one as I?” (Isaac Watts)
If you are a little older you will notice something about these lines from the familiar song, “At the Cross”: Isaac Watts distinctly did not write “for such a one as I.” You might recall he said, instead, “for such a worm as I.” This seems to be a form of verbal airbrushing.
I don’t know if the PC Police got in on this one. Did some devotee of “I’m OK, You’re OK” (a best seller by Thomas Harris) object that we ought not to be calling ourselves after the icky creatures lacking limbs?
Isaac Watts wrote something similar in his classic “Amazing Grace.”
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me” (John Newton).
A wretch? A worm? Isn’t it Christianity’s job to give us all good self-images? And we can’t be calling ourselves worms if it is our life’s goal to feel good about ourselves, right?
All of which would be good points if, indeed, it was God’s purpose to affirm our self images, or if the purpose of Christianity was to affirm our pride.
In fact, the purpose of Christianity is to do the opposite!
Can we say it, ever so cautiously, that sometimes our actions should be condemned, not confirmed? And when did it become a good thing not to be deeply conscious of our sinful condition? And how, exactly, are we going to change if we do not first feel a profound sense of remorse for our sins?
Peter was astonished by Jesus and declared, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). Jesus did not abandon his sinful disciple, but neither did he dispute Peter’s sinful nature. The Prodigal declared he was “no longer worthy to be called” a son (Luke 15:19). We know the father accepted him back, but the young man’s self-assessment was not far off. Joshua the high priest was observed wearing “filthy rags” (Zechariah 3:1-3). God arranged to cleanse him, but the rags were still filthy.
If you have been forgiven a debt of five dollars, you might say “thank you.” If you have been forgiven an incomparable debt, you might respond with your life. You would move from wretch to saint.