Francis Asbury was the one man most singularly responsible for the spread and growth of Methodism in America. He was truly the Apostle of the Long Road. Calvin Coolidge gave a wonderful dedication speech when Asbury’s memorial statue was unveiled in Washington, D.C. in 1924 (free download here).
Throughout all his travels and the thousands upon thousands of sermons preached, Asbury said that his favorite verse to preach was this one:
This saying is reliable and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I’m the biggest sinner of all.
This is neither pietistic platitude nor is it unnecessary self-flagellation. All human beings sin. And we are never privy to the motives or struggles of any person besides ourselves. As a result, we can never truly judge another human being. This means that the only true way to understand ourselves in light of God and all other people on the planet is to see ourselves as the greatest sinners.
We know how often we miss the mark of God’s ideal. We know the inner thoughts, vices, and prejudices. We have seen the darkness within our own hearts and souls. Others may commit sins we can see, but we have no clue as to the interior state of their souls. I may not commit the same outward sins, but I may be more twisted and evil on the inside than they are.
As far as I know, I am the biggest sinner of all. And that is good news, because if God could love me and work in my life, transforming me step by step into a more perfect reflection of the image and likeness of Christ, he can do it with anyone.
Until this verse becomes a reality in all of our lives, those outside of the Church will always have an opportunity to level a just criticism at us for being judgmental. When this verse defines our reality, the world will see love and compassion from us.