Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Between Holiness & Hypocrisy

No, that isn't part of directions to my new house here in Chilli, although it is where I think I live most of my life. On the one hand, I believe and proclaim a message about a great and holy God, who offers His people a great and holy life with Him both now and in eternity. And on the other hand, my public proclamation doesn't always match the life I lead privately. My thoughts, speech, and actions don't always cover me in glory. And, I'll bet that if we're honest, most Christians (even the most devout), would admit as much. We are, in the words of Martin Luther, "sanctified saints with a tremendous capacity for beer."

What brings this up is reflection on the recent Larry Craig scandal and my own recent preaching on holiness. When news of the scandal broke, those on the right reacted with shocked bewilderment: "He did what?!" This initial reaction was quickly followed by sanctimonious calculation: "Senator Craig is beyond the pale and should resign! (undercurrent: before it negatively impacts Republican chances in the 2008 elections!)" While on the left, the reaction was mostly bemused sanctimony: "See. We told you so. No one can be consistently moral, so having no social moral standards is the best. Let your freak flag fly, baby! Then you never have to apologize."

Now the particular sins of Sen. Craig aren't ones that I am prone to. But I am neither shocked nor willing to simply endorse his choices. I'm not shocked, because I know that what Paul said is true: "in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing." And that is a statement which applies to us all, whether we have Sen. Craig's predilections or not. While we may not be able to look at his life and say, "There but for God's grace..." we can surely recognize the fact that we fall far short of both God's standards and our own. We are, in other words, all hypocrites to a greater or lesser extent. And yet the solution to our hypocrisy isn't simply to endorse sin on the theory that if I can't clear the hurdle, the solution is shorter hurdles. No, the solution is to cling to God's grace, to seek forgiveness and new life from the only One who is able to restore us to holiness and to keep running, even when we fall. The worst sin, after all, isn't hypocrisy, but the sort of resignation to rebellion which thinks no pursuit of righteousness worth struggling toward.

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