Witty Wickedness | God Talk: Nazareth
“And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” ~ Mark 7:20-23
I was sitting in church among believers recently and the subject of sin came up. When we think of wickedness, it is usually a list like this passage from Mark. A long litany of things we recognize as wrong behavior or attitudes. And we pat ourselves on the back that we are not thieves or murderers or adulterers. We assure ourselves that we have pride under control now. Mostly, we focus on the “really” bad sins and praise the Lord we don’t struggle with that. Of course, that itself is a form of pride. But, there is sometimes a different approach to the topic as well.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude … it is not irritable or resentful … ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Most of the time the approach goes something like this, “Do you ever get angry? You know, when you’re driving down the highway and that guy cuts you off and you give the person a lovely salute?” And the crowd, myself included, laughs. Preachers and teachers do this kind of thing all the time, take examples from life that we can all relate to to help us connect with the Scripture. But, for a long time this kind of interaction has given me what my friends would call a “check in my Spirit.” This last time it did so much more than that. Holy Spirit’s conviction hit me like a ton of bricks.
The words, “How many of us ever get irritable?” Wry smiles and a few laughs. Humorous comments that we’re still working on that. And my heart cracked into a million pieces and I could barely hold back tears. Here we were, sitting talking about the death of Christ because of His great and abiding love, to take away our sins, free us from their power, wash us clean and make us righteous and holy for His name’s sake. And in the next breath we are giggling about the hold wickedness still has on our minds and hearts.
It’s not surprising we will giggle over our failures. As a church we have diminished the horror of sin through multiple methods. We call it making mistakes, and as Joby Martin notes in his book, If the Tomb is Empty, we “are not a mistaker that just needs to do better. [We are] sinner[s] in need of a Savior.”* We call it missing the mark, because Paul uses a term that means that, and think it is no big deal, because everybody misses the target now and then. We cover ourselves with platitudes and euphemisms so we can keep from looking in the mirror of Scripture.
Society is even worse than the church. We live in a culture that produces shows like “Lucifer” claiming the devil is simply misunderstood. We encourage one another to laugh at everything from sexual innuendo to dead babies. And we dress our children in clothing and costumes that depict devils and demons as “cute”. Then, both society and church are outraged by even the most timid resistance. They cry out hypocrite, unloving, prude, and perhaps even unChristian.
Weeping Over Wickedness
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. ~ Luke 19:41-42
I sat that day with a response echoing in my ears. “I’m still working on that one”. I have made that same statement, right down to the rueful, shrugging, almost laughing tone. And my heart shriveled back in pain. The Spirit in me cried out for how Jesus weeps at such flippant dismissals of our grievous state. He weeps not only because we love our sin more than we love Him, for if we didn’t we wouldn’t be dismissive of it. Jesus mourns because of that answer, the one that says in my own strength I am working on that. He is trying to gather me out of it, whether “it” is something as heinous in my eyes as murder and thievery or as seemingly innocuous as cussing out the driver in front of me under my breath.
As long as I dismiss my sin as simply mistakes, places I am falling short, but I’m working on it, the things that lead to peace are hidden from my eyes. I cannot be reconciled. Jesus is my deliverer, the one who makes me new, by Holy Spirit in me. He replaces my wickedness with His righteousness. His love grants me a new heart, and a new Spirit to guide me to walk in it. As long as I wrestle with my sin, whatever it is, it is mine and He cannot have it, and He cannot give me peace. Because I am refusing it.
Oh, how my heart mourns for us today. The Bride of Christ gripping tightly to our filthy rags, unwilling to admit we cannot cleanse ourselves. Unwilling to admit our little sins are a nail in the flesh of our Bridegroom, unwilling to submit and let Him wash us clean and create in us a clean heart. Laughing as we grip tightly to our chains. God forgive us.
Jesus, I’m sorry. I am sorry for every time I have giggled at wickedness, ignoring the ringing of the nails driving into Your precious hands. My soul grieves over excusing myself and my brothers and sisters for turning back to our own rebellions, even as we speak words that acknowledge we know we are sinning. I am overwhelmed with sorrow for helping to keep myself and my brothers and sisters in the bondage of sin by refusing to call it what it is. Jesus, I repent, more I ask You to repent me. I cannot turn from this flippancy and shallowness of affection and allegiance to You on my own power.
Holy Spirit convict me every time I slide into making wickedness whimsical by my words or deeds. Make my heart clean. Make it weep with You when Your people are blind to what will give them peace. Shape me and then use me however You will to shine the light of Your truth in the fullness of Your love in every instance where the lies of the world have blinded us to Your way. Thank you, Jesus, for the certainty that I am forgiven because of Your love and sacrifice, and that You will accomplish in me what I cannot accomplish for myself. May my life glorify You. Amen.
*The quote is from page 42 of If the Tomb Is Empty.