If you need to be convinced that our culture loves heinous sin, just look at the Penn State controversy. Actually, we love to hate it. Our own sin doesn’t look nearly so bad when we can point at an alleged pedophile and those alleged to have given him cover. Many articles by sportswriters covering the story over the last two sound a like the Pharisee that Jesus described who stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). One columnist used the strongest language to condemn Penn State in one paragraph and later in the same article glorified the cheerleaders of various NFL teams. Why waste a good scandal when it provides cover for the lust of the flesh?
Conversely, when we read about heinous sin, our response ought to be that of the tax-collector who stood afar off and prayed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Humility serves a great antidote to self-righteous pride.
True humility also leads us to glorify grace as opposed to heinous sin. We can all learn lessons from State College, and it is no sin to know and read about it. But, there is a time to simply turn it off. The God appointed authorities should and, I trust, will pursue justice in the Penn State case. That frees us to focus on grace.
Let us stop loving heinous sin and learn to love glorious grace! Instead of reading yet another article about heinous sin, follow Paul’s admonition to think about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” and whatever is excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Take up and read the Scripture which tells us how he has defeated sin. Or take up and read books that glorify grace, like Athanasius’ (died 373 A.D.) On the Incarnation, which remind us what God has done in Jesus Christ to conquer sin and change sinners. To lift your mind to glorify God’s grace today, here is an excerpt from Athanasius on the resurrection that was part of my regular reading today and points us to the only true antidote to sin, however heinous or mundane:
“How could the destruction of death have been manifested at all, had not the Lord’s body been raised? But if anyone finds even this insufficient, let him find proof of what has been said in present facts. Dead men cannot take effective action; their power of influence on others lasts only till the grave. Deeds and actions that energize others belong only to the living. Well, then, look at the facts in this case. The Savior is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching. Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life? Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ? If He is no longer active in the world, as He must needs be if He is dead, how is it that He makes the living to cease from their activities, the adulterer from his adultery, the murderer from murdering, the unjust from avarice, while the profane and godless man becomes religious? If He did not rise, but is still dead, how is it that He routs and persecutes and overthrows the false gods, whom unbelievers think to be alive, and the evil spirits whom they worship? For where Christ is named, idolatry is destroyed and the fraud of evil spirits is exposed; indeed, no such spirit can endure that Name, but takes to flight on sound of it. This is the work of One Who lives, not of one dead; and, more than that, it is the work of God.”