When I mess up at work, and my boss calls me on the carpet about it, I’ll feel awful for a week and redouble my efforts to improve my work processes.
When my mistakes affect a coworker or increase their burden, I’ll feel even worse and seek to do them favors.
When my pastor point out an error in ministry, or even just provide advice upon my own prompting on how I could refine a certain area, (by the way, people, do not start walking on eggshells around me because of this post – I need and value correction), I’ll be quite humbled for a while.
And when a friend or family member expresses disappoint in me for whatever reason, an entire fortnight goes in the tank.
But when I sin and only God sees?
Well, something’s different. And not in a way that should be.
I do feel bad about such sin…somewhat. I do seek to change. But when it’s a tangible person in front of me, pointing out my wrong, the shame is so much more immediate, more intense, more pure. It affects my stomach. My face goes red. Something in my very body seems to register it as more real.
While the irritation (for example) that I sometimes harbor in my heart towards a coworker, and only God sees, doesn’t make my shoulders slump nearly as severely when the Holy Spirit points it out.
That is not how it should be.
God is just as real as any person. The Spirit whom we grieve (Ephesians 4:30) is just as real as any chain of earthly dominoes that might get knocked over by my sin. And it is God first and foremost that my sin is ultimately directed against; it is his holiness, his glory that is insulted, before that of any other (Psalm 51:4). That’s why there is no “victimless sin”.
He never stopped being the wrathful, vengeful God before whom the Old Testament bows in reverent fear. He just gave us a Savior upon whom to unleash his wrath instead.
That should at least give us pause.
Perhaps sin just seems more real when I physically see its effects.
Or perhaps I still too often see God as just a set of rules, rather than a holy Being with real thoughts, thoughts very much different than my own. The work of getting to know my God is still underway, and spiritual solipsism is easy to slip into. This is why glimpses behind the veil are so shudderingly wonderful.
I know God isn’t exactly asking me to wallow in sin. He asks me to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, that I may find grace and mercy in time of need”, and to seek his strength to avoid sin the next time. He never wants sin to drive us further from him, but rather closer to him.
Yet, too often, a dull apathy exists towards even approaching the throne. I should be racing towards it. Where is the grief that David expressed in Psalm 51, the grief that would let him alone until he sought God’s forgiveness?
Lord, renew our minds until you are just as real to us as any person.
Change our hearts away from all sin.
Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.