By Russ Ramsey
I have a pastor friend in the Atlanta area who first shared with me the concept of the “sin of exceptionalism.” This is the sin of thinking that God may do one thing and expect one response from everyone else in the world, but I am an exceptional case. Everything works differently for me.
We can commit this sin in both directions when it comes to resting in God’s grace. We have the tendency to apply God’s Word to ourselves differently than we would anyone else—either by giving ourselves more latitude or more restriction. We can grant ourselves all kinds of moral liberty we don’t extend to others, choosing a more morally lax path for our own lives urging others to heed Jesus’s call to obedience. Or we can go the other direction and fail to see the grace present for ourselves that we would readily extend to others, acknowledging that no sinner is beyond God’s salvation while judging our own actions as beyond redemption.
We see this sin in today’s passage. In Deuteronomy 29, The Lord reminds Israel that He has bound Himself to them by way of a covenant. He has promised to call them and keep them in an everlasting way. And in that covenant, He calls them to follow His statutes and forsake all other gods. As Moses is laying all this out, he says, “When someone hears the words of this oath, he may consider himself exempt, thinking ‘I will have peace even though I follow my own stubborn heart.’ This will lead to…destruction…” (v.19).
When God says, “observe the words of this covenant and follow them” (Deuteronomy 29:9), He is not hanging a burden around our necks. He is showing the path to peace: do not follow your own stubborn heart, because disobedience leads to trouble. Obedience leads to peace.
Here is the comfort and beauty of God’s covenant promises—they do not treat anyone as an exception. If you are in Christ, the full weight of God’s covenant grace and mercy are yours. He will never leave you or forsake you. He will not find you to be too far beyond the reach of His mercy, nor will He find you to be so individually righteous that you don’t need His grace.
When it comes to God’s kindness, He does not regard you as an exception to the rule. You need it just as much as anyone. And this is exactly what you’ve been given in Christ.