Thursday, May 23, 2019

No More Curious George

When our children were young, we spent a lot of time reading about Curious George. Curious George, the monkey kidnapped from Africa by the Man with the Yellow Hat, got into trouble over and over: calling the fire department, painting without permission, making boats out of newspapers instead of delivering them, etc.

At the end of each story, George found a way to make up for his mistakes. He was pitied, forgiven, and restored based on his cute-factor and efforts. It took awhile for me, as a parent, to see and recognize that same pattern in our children. Like Curious George, they thought they could make up for their sin by doing something extra. That's true for many of us.

How often, when we realize we've hurt someone or said something harmful, do we attempt to win them over with kindness or generosity? Or, if we felt the slight was deserved, we reach out to someone else, putting our best foot forward?When I see the wickedness and the evil in my heart, I work to convince myself I'm not that bad; I'm not all bad; it's going to be okay.

The truth of the matter is, I am that bad. It's not okay. We cannot pay for our sin. We can't make it up, cover it up, or fix it. It is what it is.

I don't like that very much. I'd like a different plan. But that's God's plan. I don't like that plan until... Until I'm on the other side of the equation and I've been heinously sinned against. Then I think that's a good plan. Justice is good. Justice is right. There should be punishment for wickedness and evil. Because when one person sins against another, the victim lives with ongoing consequences. The wrong(s) can't be undone. They don't go away. It is part of the sufferer's identity and everyday life. The consequences of sin are very, very real. The cost of sin is always carried by the sufferer, not the offender. God does not take sin lightly. He will always exact justice. Always.

Here is a picture of God's judgment from the book of Isaiah: a sinful, unrepentant nation is trampled in the mud, "like straw in the water of a manure pile." The passage goes on, "And he will spread out his hands in the middle of it as a swimmer spreads out his hands to swim, but the Lord will lay low his pride together with the trickery of his hands."(Isaiah 25:10-11) Living on a farm, I understand that graphic word picture. It's creative. Inescapable. Awe full.

God does not overlook, excuse or ignore sin. He always sees it. It is always a stench in His nostrils, an eternal offense against a holy, righteous God. Regardless of who is involved or affected, God's Person, character, and nature are affronted. He alone is Creator, Ruler, Judge. We, each one of us, is accountable for every word, every action. And we fall short.

There is no hope. No rescue. No easy fix. No relief.... But God.

Because God sent Jesus to pay the cost of our sin against Him--a price only God can afford--we have access to forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a decision, a transaction. The offending individual admits his sin to the one he sinned against (God and ____), agreeing it is egregious, shocking, wrong. He then asks for forgiveness with the understanding that it is not an obligation but a gift. Because of Jesus, God will forgive and cleanse from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Because of Jesus, we can forgive those who sin against us. Forgiveness, then, is "sending away," sin: the punishment is removed, peace is restored. The estranged are reconciled. God is glorified.

That's why the Curious George fix doesn't work. There is no admission of wrong, no Jesus, no reconciliation or forgiveness. Just George. And George is not enough... You, and I, are not enough. We need, must have, can only depend on and trust in, Jesus.

 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

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