Don’t Forget To Blush
Having a high view of sin is crucial for sanctification. A high view of sin does not mean that you regard more things as sinful than actually are sinful. That would be legalism. Rather, it is the conscious effort to keep sin from becoming trivial. It is the removal of the frequent ‘but factor’ in the face of God’s commands (you are not the exception!). It is the self-control and humility to abstain from retorting to Matt 7.1 when admonished by a faithful brother or sister in Christ. A high view of sin also does not relativize certain sins with others. The more we regard sin as egregious, the higher we regard God; the God who is so holy that supernatural beings ceaselessly cry the refrain, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” What kind of God can evoke endless praise from beings so much loftier than us humans? That God is the one whom Habakkuk declares to be too holy than to even look upon evil (Hab 1.13).
As Christians we do not want to be caught unashamed of our sin. The prophet Jeremiah dealt with hypocritical people who were engaged in the temple cult of Israel while living a life uncharacteristic of the true people of God. They had grown secure in their identity as God’s chosen people, and interpreted the temple itself as a symbol of their immunity to God’s judgment (Jer 7.4), much like the idea of ‘base’ in the children’s game of tag. Yet God promised to destroy the temple like he destroyed Shiloh (Jer 7.12-15). The problem was that the temple had become a den of thieves (Jer 7.11), that is, those participating in Israel’s worship had trivialized sin. In our day and age it is easy to make exceptions for holy living: ‘We live in a different time.’ And sadly, some Christians have embraced the cultural shift and made allowances for various sins due to the change of time. I pray that we will cultivate a high view of sin so that in turn we will develop a high view of God. The more egregious we see sin, the more holy we will see God. May the words of Jeremiah never be said of us: ‘Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush’ (Jer 6.15a).
One source that has often reminded me to blush is one of my favorite musicians, Sufjan Stevens. He is incredibly talented; playing dozens of instruments on each album. Yet my favorite song of his is one of the most minimalist in regards to instrumentation. The lyrics are so poignant that they need very little musical accompaniment. On his album, ‘Come On! Feel The Illinoise!,’ Sufjan sings a song about the famed serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, Jr (Watch a Live performance here). The song catalogues in summary form the atrocious things that Gacy did, including killing innocent young boys and burying them under the floorboards of his house. It is a heavy song and some may find it disturbing or even offensive. Yet Sufjan ends the song with an introspective twist that cuts straight to heart. He states, “In my best behavior I am really just like him. Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.” Some may recoil to these words: ‘I am NOT like John Wayne Gacy, Jr!’ Yet the truth of the matter is that we are all capable of such atrocities. It is only the grace of God that restrains us from doing so. But beyond our capability for committing the same deeds, we need to realize that Gacy is not in a separate category. Our sin is just as foul, just as loathsome to God as his. Sufjan captures this idea well in his song, and I was very grateful to hear him play it live at the close of his encore performance in October 2010 at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. Truth be told I made this song my morning alarm for over a year in college on my iHome. Some may think that was morbid, but for me it was a great reminder to take sin seriously.