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Sin and Separation

October 17, 2014 2 comments

As I continue on in my emotional processing, some more details are relevant.

After I confronted my father about some stuff I found out about him, he talked around it and downplayed everything. I kept trying to bring him back to what was actually going on, and he kept sidestepping. He said a lot of things that were designed to avoid the issue. He was even saying things about wanting to help single mothers because they are kind of like orphans and widows in distress. He was committing adultery and trying to put a positive spin on it. He looked like a deer in the headlights that didn’t know which way to run, so he ran in circles.

I was looking for some emotion of sorrow. I was looking for regret. I was looking for a contrite heart. I continued to try to bring him back to his sin so he would see it for what it was. He didn’t. He just ran in circles.

A deer in the headlights is understandably frightened because it is probably going to be hit by a car. He was a deer in the headlights, but my car wasn’t moving. I had already hit the brakes. He did not need to fear the headlights or the car behind them. The headlights were an invitation for him to come to me, exposed by the light, and hop into the car with me.

He didn’t. He wouldn’t come toward me. After running in circles, he ran off into the woods.

A couple of days after I confronted him, he sent me a few texts. I sent him a few texts back. He never responded. I found out that he had ran off hundreds of miles away. I sent him more texts over the coming weeks. I called a few times too. I even drove and spent a day and a half looking for him and waiting for him. I never saw him. He never responded. I think that was a couple of months ago. I still haven’t heard anything.

Sin separates us from God. It also separates us from others. There are lot of reasons this might happen. Sometimes when you sin against someone they don’t want to be around you. Sometimes when you sin against someone you don’t want to be around them because you feel guilty about how you wronged them. Sometimes people feel ashamed and guilty about their sin, so they want to distance themselves from everyone because they feel ashamed being around people who might expose their shame.

There is another way sin distances us from God and others. When we sin, we are acting in a way we were never designed to be. We are acting in a way that is contrary to who we actually are. When we are acting in a way that is incongruent with who God made us to be, we are not really being ourselves. When we are not really ourselves, people can only connect with the false self we put forth.

Sin creates an internal divide between who we really are and how are we are behaving. The internal divide sin creates disconnects us from ourselves. When we are disconnected from ourselves we can’t connect to others. When we can’t connect to others, we are apart from them, even when we are in the same room. A life of sin, a life devoted to sin, leads to a life of distance from other people, full of false representations and fake conversations. Sin separates us from God, ourselves, and others.

This separation does not have to be permanent. Repentance, changing our ways and what we are devoted to, changes our circumstances. Turning from our sin and toward Jesus immediately reunites us with God, which progressively unites us with ourselves, which enables us to be united with others by connecting to them with our true selves. If you want real relationship, if you want real intimacy, run away from the sin which causes you to run away, and fall into the embrace of a gracious God.

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Categories: Family Disruption Tags: , , ,

Jeremiah Was A Dragon Man: We Are God’s Underpants

November 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Thus says the Lord to me, “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.” So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist. And the word of the Lord came to me a second time, “Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. And after many days the Lord said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.

Then the word of the Lord came to me, “Thus says the Lord; Even so will I speak the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.

Jeremiah 13:1-11

Sin brings shame. Israel’s sin is shameful. God’s judgment and exile of Israel and Judah to a foreign land is not God bringing shame upon Israel as a weak and conquered people, but God revealing and putting on display the shame of sin the people of God have already brought upon themselves. Jeremiah again makes this clear in chapter 13.

And if you say in your heart, “Why have these things come upon me?” it is for the greatness of your iniquity that your skirts are lifted up and you suffer violence (22).

I myself will lift up your skirts over your face, and your shame will be seen (26).

The image of a skirt being lifted up conveys exposure of shame.* God will not let Israel continue to conceal the shameful way they have been treating YHWH and others.

But Israel is not the only one who will be naked and ashamed. As we read above, Israel has exposed YHWH’s nakedness, and He has been shamed in the same way as His people. YHWH has clothed Himself with His people, covering up his most vulnerable parts with them. He chose Israel for His glory, that by His blessing of them, freeing them from slavery, and setting them up as a sovereign nation in a fertile land, He would be glorified by their worship of the God who gave them the freedom and provision they could not obtain on their own. If by this blessing and worship YHWH was glorified by His people, then by the coming judgment and Israel’s disdain of YHWH He is brought to shame by His people.

Over and over again God shows His humility by His willingness to put faith in us, to give us power and responsibility over Creation, and to create humanity with the capacity to bring YHWH shame and dishonor. He didn’t have to create us with the capacity to shame Him, but because He loves us, He enters into relationship with us, and in so doing, leaves Himself vulnerable to our rejection of Him. Israel was a people specially set apart to be blessed by YHWH and glorify YHWH. When the special receivers of God’s blessing respond to that blessing with rejection, God is stripped naked, in His humility experiencing the shame of their rejection.

We, as God’s people, special receivers of His blessing, specially picked out through Jesus’ blood to represent God on earth, are also given the responsibility to bring God glory and with it the power to bring God shame. We are God’s underwear. He gave his life to be in relationship with us, we expose his nakedness when we reject relationship with Him. He made us in His image that we might show the world what God looks like, when we live in a way that disfigures His image in us and dishonors it in others, we shame Him by stripping Him of the clothing which accents His beauty. Will we show God’s honor, love, and beauty to the world or embarrass Him with rejection and gross misrepresentations?

* The images here are very similar to those of the first sin of man. Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned against God, their primary concern was to cover their nakedness and in so doing, hide their shame. God pressed into Adam and Eve, and though He clothed them, He wouldn’t let them pretend to hide from Him. God is revealing Israel not that they would be forever naked and ashamed, but that they would no longer be able to try to hide behind their skirts of Temple ritual and sacrifice.

Jeremiah Was A Dragon Man: Needless Fear and Dismay

October 8, 2012 Leave a comment

“Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity…
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good.”
Jeremiah 10.1-5

It’s pretty well established that the people of God have a strong proclivity to serve a bunch of gods. Yes, they certainly do their duty at the Jerusalem Temple with sacrifices and burnt offerings, but along with their YHWH worship, they pursue other gods. Chapter 10 is another example of Jeremiah shedding light on what idols really are and contrasting them with who YHWH is, and through this comparison exhorting complete devotion to YHWH and the shunning of the idols of other nations.

Jeremiah does this by explaining again what the idols are. The idols are constructions. They are beautiful constructions royally adorned and sculpted by skilled craftsmen (10.9). The idols are followed by other nations. The nations put their faith in the idols, collectively acknowledging the power of these gods of wood and stone (10.1). The power of the idols is their beauty, their imposing godlike features, their skilled crafting, and in the collective cultural belief that these idols are indeed gods.

As is self-evident, the appearance of power does not give something power, neither does beauty, neither does everyone believe something has power. The only power these characteristics of idols give them is the power to deceive, to trick people into trusting them. The message of Jeremiah is this: the power you think these idols have is fake, the power of the pagan religions is pretend. Because there is no real power is these supposed gods, there is no reason to be afraid of them, there is no reason to be dismayed by them, and it is foolish to listen to their impotent instruction (10.8). Jeremiah is trying to free Israel from their worry over what will happen to them if they abandon their idols and point them toward the one who has all true power, regardless of who trusts in him, the Creator of the very material and people who build the idol constructs. YHWH is the only one worth trusting, fearing, loving, following, accepting instruction from, and hoping in.

Now is the question I’m not sure how to answer (help?): How does this relate to you and me? As we’ve talked about previously, we have idols, they are just different kinds. Our idols still look beautiful though. They are still made by skilled craftsmen and so many people put their hope and trust in them that it seems like idols do actually have power. Certainly many of us, at least at times, have thought that if we just had more money, more time, better relationships with our family, fame, attention from the opposite sex, marriage, more intelligence, kids, a better job, more power, new politicians in office, more strength, a bigger house, new friends, or _________, then we would be happy, our hopes would be fulfilled and our lives would be as they should be. These are some of the idols of our society, the cultural constructs supported by a mythology which makes it seem as if they have real power to give us life. Still, they are just beautiful constructions made with human hands and minds that have no power in and of themselves.

The reality that these idols are not gods and have no power is quite hopeful to us. When we realize they have no power, then we are free from them. So often our idols make us afraid and hopeless. For example, if we don’t believe making more money has power to fulfill us, then we won’t be afraid of not making more money, won’t be dismayed if we don’t make more money, and won’t be disappointed when we do make more money that making more money was not the hope we were looking for. If we believe idols have no true power, then we can stop giving them power over us by pursuing them in the hopes they can give us the life only YHWH can provide. The truth is that no matter how powerful an idol seems, it’s power is in pretense only. Truth sets us free from a pretense of power.

Jeremiah Was A Dragon-Man: You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself!

August 25, 2012 1 comment

“They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
When there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
They did not know how to bush,
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
At the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
says the Lord.

Jeremiah 6:14-15

The priests and the prophets of Jerusalem are trying to fix the problem of Judah by proclaiming “peace.” They are teaching the people they message that they want to hear: “Don’t worry, the wound is light and is over now, everything will be fine. You are at peace with God and therefore the Land will be at peace.” The problem is that this message is a total lie and a part of the continuous cover-up of Israel’s sin and God’s impending judgment that the people and rulers of Israel continue to ignore or declare false. This cover up is one of Israel’s biggest and most incessant issues.

Repeatedly, we read that Judah is returning only in pretense, they aren’t acknowledging their guilt, they refuse to own up to their own sin and turn from it, and here we read that they aren’t even ashamed when they are doing what is very shameful. Jeremiah mentions this idea that Israel should feel shameful about the sin they have committed a few times (at least in chapter 3 and 8). Israel is guilty of shameful behavior, which causes their judgment, and part of their judgment is to be put to shame and having their shame revealed (7:19, 8:9, 13:26).*

The shame of Israel is something horrendous and destructive, and that which could lead to their salvation. The people of Judah are reproached and condemned for their sinful and shameful past, but their main problem is not idolatry, but a refusal to acknowledge its shamefulness, take responsibility for their guilt, and turn to God whose heart’s desire it is to prosper them. What YHWH describes through Jeremiah is a shame that is present whether or not the people of Judah feel or admit the shame. Because they won’t admit their shame, they can only come before God pretentiously and proudly. Therefore, the guilt and shame of Judah remain, and “they shall fall among those who fall.”

Although Scripture speaks against it, the idea that the people of God should be, at times, ashamed is anathema among many Christians. They talk about how shame destroys our souls, breeds lies in our minds, and gets our hearts caught up in a shame cycle. I’ve heard one pastor say, “There is no place for shame in the kingdom of God.”** I think a lot of people try to deal with shame by condemning shame (ironically often feeling ashamed about being ashamed) or ignoring and covering up the shame they feel. Maybe the best way to deal with shame isn’t to ignore it or say it doesn’t belong, but to concede this: sin is shameful.

A line I’ve used with some frequency goes something like this, “Shame after sin is a wonderful place to be, and a terrible place to stay.” The more we understand the horrors of sin, the clearer we see the Love of the cross. If sin is shameful, then when we sin we should feel ashamed. The shame is there, whether we condemn it, ignore it, hide it, or accept it. It’s best to deal with what is, rather than pretend it isn’t. If the shame is there, then be ashamed. Blush when you do something which deserves blushing. Feel guilty about your guilt. Allow the weight of your sin to be on your shoulders. See the heinousness of your actions.

And then… let Love take them from you. Turn from shame, toward the one who will restore You, and walk. He took all the shame, all the guilt, all the heinousness, and all the weight of your sin. All those shameful things you did to Him, He absorbed. He deigned Himself to be shamed by us, took everything we could throw at him, and killed our sin. He destroyed the cause of our shame. Nothing is left to cause us shame. You and I, we are free.

*Many more.

**In one sense, this is completely true. In another, it is completely false. Double incongruent absolutes!

Jeremiah Was A Dragon-Man: Faithless Marriages Don’t Work

June 8, 2012 1 comment

One of the most powerful and common metaphors in Scripture that God uses to describe his relationship with us is a marriage metaphor. YHWH is the bridegroom and His people are His bride. I believe this helps us understand not only the depth of God’s love for us, but also what sin does to our relationship. Our sin is an act of adultery. Jeremiah 3 uses the metaphor extensively:

“Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this, she will return to me,’ but she did not return.” 3:6-7*

When I imagine myself in these circumstances, with my wife going out and whoring herself to man after man everywhere she can find them, my heart and soul break. God’s response to His bride prostituting herself is far different than my response would be. My anger and brokenness would not let me take her back, but YHWH is not concerned about vengeance or brokenness or finding another bride who would not be so faithless. He just hopes that when His bride realizes there is no life outside of His fountain of living water, she will come back to Him.

Judah also went out and played the whore, and came back to Him, but it was a farce.

“Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.” 3:10

A pretentious return to YHWH is like a wife saying to her husband that she wants to be married to him and have a relationship with him while she continues in unceasing adultery. Faithless marriages are sham marriages. Judah wanted the benefits of being married to their God while keeping up her adulterous ways with other gods. It doesn’t work.**

Beautiful, loving YHWH is still not deterred by the incessant whoring of His wives and their pretense toward Him. He is deeply concerned about, angered by, and hurt by their breaking of the marriage covenant, but He is continuing His relentless pursuit of them. YHWH just wants them to admit their wrong and come back to Him, for He will remain faithful even when they are not. His love will not be stopped even when it is rejected.

In the middle of Israel and Judah’s whoring, YHWH, although He is the last one who deserves to be treated like this, is willing to endure all of the shame their actions cause Him if it means there is still a chance for the restoration of relationship. This God, our God, has always been willing to take the shame of our sin upon Himself and rid us of it through forgiveness, restoration, and the new life of His cleansing waters. The shame Jesus endured on the cross is the epitomic example of what God has been doing for us all along. No one has a more humble and powerful love than our God.

So, you and I, we’ve played the whore. We’ve followed other gods. We’ve pursued life elsewhere. We’ve broken the terms of the marriage covenant with our bridegroom. Our sin is not okay, it’s horrible and disgusting, but it is made okay by God’s love if we would only return and receive His new life. He doesn’t ask us to get better and return, but merely to acknowledge what we’ve done and return with our whole hearts. No longer is there any need to worry about our shame, for our God, as He as always done, has taken our shame upon Himself and eliminated it. Do not fear, with a husband who loves like this, it is always safe to come home and find hope and life and love beyond comprehension in His embrace. May we never leave His arms.

*When I write these, I’m hoping that you’ll be reading the whole chapter along with it. Chapter 3 comes highly recommended by Jeremiah.
** The desire to have both God and other gods is discussed more extensively here.

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