I was in Bay City with my brother when I was informed that one the levees had again broken in New Orleans. I looked to the TV and was relieved to see that I had been misinformed, but there was splash-over. Waves in the water, driven by the wind was coming over the edges of the levees but the levees themselves were still standing. There were two differences between Katrina and Gustav: the mayor of New Orleans (who should have born the brunt of the nation's fury for Katrina instead of the feds) actually did his job this time and evacuated the city and secondly, the levees held.
The levees held. That made all the difference.
Water did get into the city this time because of rain and the splash over from behind the levees, but it was not catastrophic.
Now I'm going to ask to picture something utterly stupid. Let us suppose that the authorities decided that because they were not able to stop all of the water from getting in they should take the levees down and just accept the fact that the water is going to come in and can't be stopped.
Utterly stupid but I ask you to do that for a reason.
The reason is that it has implications concerning - - morality.
One of the key doctrines to Christianity is the universality of sin for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
, We know that God's law is absolutely perfect, but we also know that, with the exception of Jesus, no human that has lived beyond their earliest childhood has lived a life where they have never sinned (putting aside original sin for the moment). The problem isn't with the moral law; it is absolutely perfect. The problem is with us. No matter how much we try we will never on our own live up to God's standard.
So do we ignore the standard or pretend to believe that it isn't there?
Should we pretend to believe that sex outside of marriage is allowable? Should we pretend to believe that drunkenness, drug abuse and smoking are perfectly alright? Should we pretend to believe that gluttony and selfishness are normal and not to be questioned? Are we to pretend to believe so many things and the answer is a resounding NO. Now the problem is that we know what the law says and we also know that with the lone exception of Jesus no one has ever perfectly kept God's moral law. We as Christians know that it is impossible for a human to totally keep the law.
Now here is what would be a difficulty to anyone but God Himself. God's love is absolute. God's justice is absolute. His absolute justice demands that every single sin be punished (a fact that seems to be lost on a lot of people). His absolute love demands that all people be embraced into the family of God. The punishment for sin (any sin) is death and God cannot pass out both eternal death and eternal life to the same person (God can do anything that is not an inherent contradiction.) So how can God satisfy both aspects of His character?
The answer was by crucifixion of Jesus. So much happened that day as the Son of God took on the sins of the world. He took God's absolute justice and His absolute love and wove them together into another big word. Grace (Greek Charis
, Hebrew Chessed
) Perfect love and perfect justice meet and become one at the cross. He couldn't just abandon us because of His love; He couldn't simply ignore the sin because of His justice. The cross dealt with that paradox.
People rightly point out the loving character of God but if you ignore His just character then you only get part of the picture.
We are in a human situation where God's law is absolute and perfect but no human can possibly obey it. Do we ditch it?
I point again to the levees of New Orleans during Katrina and Gustav. When the levees are in place there is some splashover. Recognition of the moral law is not going to prevent every instance but remove the moral law completely and you have what happened when the levees broke. All hell broke loose and there was chaos. Societal recognition of the moral law is such a barrier. When society recognizes the moral law then there will still be sin, but society as a whole can manage it but remove the moral law completely and you have the breakdown of society. God told Moses that every law He gave was for mankind's good, both collectively and individually.
We certainly do not want the Taliban's idea of Sharia
where God's law is turned into an inhuman nightmare, but we don't want the other extreme either. Society must recognize some moral limits in all areas of life, but they should not be a degree that stifles peoples' growth as individuals and as a society. Between the two extremes represented by the Taliban and the hedonistic Hollywood mindset is the reasonable center: Christianity.
An important aspect of a person's character is how they deal with the inevitable sin in their life. Do they pretend it isn't there or pretend that it isn't sin? That is unacceptable. Do they seek forgiveness from those offended (including, most importantly, God) and try to make it right? That is the proper way.
Sarah Palin's daughter and future son-in-law sinned. No question about it. God's grace will deal with the consequences of guilt and He has also laid out a way for young people who put themselves in such a situation to properly deal with it. This young couple is doing so. They are not pretending that it is "no big deal" because they know it is a big deal but they are dealing with the consequences in the right manner.
The problem isn't that people sin but that people deny that it is sin; that is what we must not allow. If a person is an alcoholic and knows he's wrong but can't handle his addiction then compassion is called for; when he insists that it is perfectly alright to constantly be drunk he enters a situation where tough love and discipline are called for. God's moral law was broken, not because it is wrong but because we as humans are wrong. God forgives via the cross, but He will not allow the moral law to be ignored or forgotten or (even worse) outright denied. We too forgive but we must never say such behavior is good or acceptable.
One additional note: Hypocrisy is not in the recognition of sin or the insistence of morality. Hypocrisy is in pretending that you do not sin or that your sin is less important than the sins of others.