As I navigate through our increasingly more bizarre culture I alternate between laughing and crying. Yesterday I found out that our government has decided to redefine the plight of poor families in our country. For the thirty-three million Americans without enough money to buy food or families in which parents skip meals so their children can eat are now labeled as having ”very low food security.” The experts feel that the term “hungry” does really describe their situation.
I think these bureaucrats have “very low common sense capacity”. Hungry describes the situation for too many people in this country. I realized that we do the same thing as followers of Jesus. Because we don’t want to offend anyone we manage to do exactly what the government is doing. We have “very low truth and grace security”. The late Howard Cosell signature phrase was “telling it like it is”. Our culture seems increasingly less capable of calling simple concepts by their name.
Our politically correct society has make sin an archaic and intolerant word. But no word as powerfully communicates any behavior that separates me from a Holy God. By reducing the power of the concept of sin we have negated the awesome gift of grace. You don’t need grace to rescue you from idiosyncrasies. I haven’t been moved by a hymn that says…
Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound,
That empowered a dysfunctional but spiritually seeking and fundamentally good person like me.
Somehow John Newton’s original line about saving a wretch like me hits a little closer to my story. I am not talking about self-bashing and looking for fault. I am talking about the mind boggling prospect of facing a holy and sinless God with resume that I would have to present. Am I a good person? Yeah, I think so. Am I up to that appointment without the redemptive endorsement of Jesus? No way.
The classic hymn He Took My Sins Away by Margaret Harris would lose some luster if many of us in the body of Christ were writing it about ourselves. Here is the refrain as she wrote it in 1901.
He took my sins away, He took my sins away,
And keeps me singing every day!
I’m so glad He took my sins away,
He took my sins away.
One hundred and four years later it might go something like this…
He recognized my dysfunctional past, He helped me find my inner voice
And showed me it was not my fault
I’m so glad He understood my syndrome
He took away my responsibility.
Same verse…everybody sing along now.
Ahh….responsibility…that is a bad word in our culture. Evangelist Mike Wells makes a sobering point in one his newsletters. He was talking to a man who was, in his words, addicted to pornography. Wells responded “I’ll bet your family is sick of watching pornography with you.” The man was horrified. “Oh no, I would never look at it around them!” Wells asked him the uncomfortable question of how can you be addicted if you can choose when and where he watches pornography? So much of what we try to excuse as addiction is a choice that we make. We choose to find a private place. We choose to go online and we choose to type in the address of a site that is inappropriate. I will grant that not making these choices can be difficult but we are denigrating the power of Jesus Christ living through us if we say we can’t make them.
Any thing that breaks the covenant between myself and a Holy God is sin. God doesn’t have scales to weigh our sins. Really good people still fall short of the mark. I fall short and I need that fixed. Jesus came to fix it. That gift of forgiveness is incomprehensible.
Jesus called sin by it’s name…but He also calls us by name…His child. All it takes is accepting the gift of salvation.