April 29, 2008

The crooked can be made straight

During my opportunities of teaching others how to sew, I’ve occasionally met would-be seamstresses who could not see their mistakes. The first was a young girl learning the basics. I gave her fabric, explained and showed how to sew a seam in a straight line using the guide on the bed of the sewing machine. She proceeded, but no matter how much she practiced, her seam was always crooked. The problem soon became apparent; she had no perception of “straight” vs. crooked. Each time she brought me a sample, she was certain it was okay. In her mind, the wavy line was just fine.

I’m quite puzzled about this, but when I begin to apply it to moral spiritual matters, maybe I understand. In the realm of good and evil, it’s no secret that a great many people refuse to take any responsibility for ‘crooked’ behavior. I don’t know if Freud started it with blaming your mother, but the first excuse we hear is that no matter what someone did, it is the fault of someone else. Do that often enough and repeat it often enough and after awhile, it becomes true in your own mind. Moral and spiritual blindness so easily slides over the mind and heart and the crooked lines start to seem straight.

When it comes to disobeying God, Jeremiah knew that people who sin not only blame whoever and whatever else they can think of, they become very upset if God chastens them for their sin. He wrote: “Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven” (Lamentations 3:39-42).

Yet humility that quickly recognizes sin is a rare thing. Most of us will make some sort of excuse before we finally admit we have done wrong. Jesus, in just a few verses after the marvelous declaration of John 3:16, said in verse 20: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

He knew the heart. We don’t want anyone to know that we did wrong. Jesus’ words sound to me that God knows how even the people who seem the most blind to their mistakes, errors and sins actually do realize that they have made a mistake. But their fear of having it known or having to admit it keeps them from saying so or even ‘seeing’ it.

The greatest thing about the gospel is that before God we are set free from His punishment for sin. Jesus took our punishment so we could be forgiven and our record wiped clean. Yes, humility to confess sin (agree with God about it) is required, but that price is far easier to pay than the alternative.

David wrote a wonderful psalm about God’s perfect knowledge of the people He created. God knows our sin, but He also knows the struggles and deepest longings of our hearts. He knows our successes and our failures. He also knows that our sin keeps us from becoming all that He created us to be. He knows that everyone (and I must not exclude myself), has a tendency to slip into “Who, me? What did I do?” and shift all blame for our actions to something or someone else.

At the end of that psalm, David made a request that ought always to be the prayer on my heart. He said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

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