A horrible and shocking thing has happened in this land?Was it a moment in time that you can look back on or is it something you are in the midst of? Is it sin you see around you or has God convicted your heart of your own sin? Are you shocked by it?
Various translations of Jeremiah 5:30 use the words disgusting, horrible, appalling and astonishing. The Contemporary English Version puts it like this:
Look at the terrible things
going on in this country.
I am shocked!
Commenting on Jeremiah, one writer describes the scene by simply stating "Jeremiah lived during troubled times". I can't help but see myself, my community and our times in this prophets wise words.
What appalling situations are you facing? What horrible and disgusting scene have you witnessed? What has shocked you and rocked you to your core these past weeks? We could all weigh in on these questions and I have no doubt the answers would turn all of our stomachs.
We can say along with Jeremiah "Look at the terrible things going on in this country. I am shocked!"
We would have to agree that we're living during troubled times in much the same way Jeremiah was.
Saying What A Thing Is
While it would be easy to point the finger at what's happening outside of our church walls, what is riveting and most shocking to me is what takes place inside of our church walls. We may think that the world has believed the facade that says the church is full of saints, but the truth is we're not fooling anyone. The church is no different than the world - it's full of sinners. This is what Jeremiah knew, this is what he preached. He spoke God's words and in so doing he effectively diagnosed and accurately portrayed the problem of the day - human sin. Rather than down play sin and instead of trying to "spin" Israel's sin, Jeremiah does what Martin Luther called "saying what a thing is".
Reflecting on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, Gerhard Forde writes:
In thesis 21 of the Heidelberg Disputation Luther says that a theologian of the cross "says what a thing is," whereas a theologian of glory calls the bad good and the good bad...
A theologian of the cross says what a thing is. In modern parlance: a theologian of the cross calls a spade a spade. One who "looks on all things through suffering and the cross" is constrained to speak the truth. The theology of the cross, that is to say, provides the theological courage and the conceptual framework to hold the language in place. It will, no doubt, also involve critical appraisal of the language and its use. It will recognize indeed that the half of the vocabulary that has disappeared can be frightening and offensive. But it will see precisely that the cross and the resurrection itself is the only answer to that problem, not erasure or neglect.
It is curious that in spite of attempts to avoid offense, matters don’t actually seem to improve. We seek affirmation, but we seem to experience less and less of it. We look for support, but others are too busy looking for it themselves to pay us much mind. Preachers try to prop up our self-esteem with optimistic blandishments, but more and more people seem to suffer from a deteriorating sense of self-worth. Perhaps a return to calling a spade a spade has its place.(For an in depth study on theology of the cross and theology of glory I highly recommend picking up On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde.)
Jeremiah did not use this phrase, but he was indeed calling a spade a spade! He did not hold back in talking about the sin he saw when he said "they swear falsely, they felt no anguish, they refused to take correction, they committed adultery, they have turned aside, they lurk like fowlers lying in wait, they set a trap, they are full of deceit, they know no bounds in deeds of evil, they judge without justice, they do not defend the rights of the needy."
Like Israel, we are a shocking people. It's so bad, we can't see the deep depths of the problem. We are bothered by it maybe, we are uncomfortable with consequences of sin, and we are even sorrowful. But we still have yet to know the intense and disgusting reality of who we really are and what we are really capable of. Only when I see the horror of anothers' sin and realize I am that sinner too will I understand the wickedness that resides in my own heart.
The Supreme Shock
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Now that should shock us! Think again about the appalling sin and the disgusting circumstance you've witnessed recently and consider this: God, in the person of Jesus, came down and found me and you. We weren't looking his way. We weren't merely falling a little bit short of the mark. We were headed down and falling fast. We were sinking into the pit of devastation and destruction - no way out. We were without hope, despairing of ever finding true peace, true love and true contentedness. We were set on ourselves - our only hope was possibly finding something good in ourselves - a vain attempt! This is the state at which God found me. A one way love that was not repelled and disgusted at the ugliness inside of me, but a knowing and overflowing love for me that said "welcome home".
This is the supreme shock, the ultimate offense - that God would look our way.
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things. It strikes us when we are weak, not strong. It strikes us in pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we feel our separation is deeper than usual. It strikes us when our disgust for our weakness and our lack of composure becomes intolerable. It strikes us when longed-for progress does not appear, when old compassions re-emerge, when despair destroys joy and courage. Sometimes, at that moment, a wave of light breaks into the darkness and you hear God say, "Because of what my Son did, you are accepted. Once you had not received mercy, but now you receive mercy. You belong to Me. Do not try to do anything. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!" Yes, you are flawed and sinful, but you are more accepted and loved than you can imagine. (excerpt from Mockingbird Ministries - Two Words edited by Sean R. Norris)Because of this one way love, the undeserved acceptance, we don't need to "spin" sin. We can call it what it is. We can acknowledge that we are more sinful than we had believed but we are more loved than we dared imagine!