I live in Western New York, and my area is in the news for a not-so-good reason. I’m talking about the latest member of congress to resign in disgrace. (Technically, he didn’t serve the area where I live, but it’s close enough.) I’m not going to recount the details of the scandal or even mention his name here. I’m more interested in the reaction to what happened.
It goes something like this: “I’m shocked! How could he be so stupid? How could someone so trusted, with so much responsibility, with a wife and a family…how could he do this?” I suppose it’s natural for us to be surprised by such a fall from grace from someone so prominent.
But I want to tell you: never be surprised. I’m not making a statement about politicians and their trustworthiness. I’m talking about human beings and their propensity to sin, to mess up, to blow it. As a pastor, people often try to be on their best behavior around me (not unlike a politician smiling for the camera!) Usually, when some sin or mistake in their lives comes to light, they’re embarrassed. They think I will be so shocked and surprised that they would do something like that.
Well, I’m not surprised. You shouldn’t be either.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) There’s no getting around it. Human beings are sinful. They do things that are wrong, before God and people. This sin infects all people. Even the Apostle Paul mentioned how sin kept creeping into his life. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:18-19)
I’m not saying this as an excuse. I’m not saying it’s okay, that the congressman couldn’t help his actions or that other people who do terrible things can’t help it. I’m not excusing them. I’m taking away everyone’s excuse. Sure, we don’t all end up in public scandals. We don’t all commit crimes that cause us to be imprisoned. But we are all sinful. We are all imperfect. And as such, we fall under God’s judgment.
It’s just another example of what our only hope really is. In Greek they’d say, Kyrie Eleison! Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! There is nothing good in me. I deserve God’s wrath and punishment. But in Christ, God has had mercy on me. In Jesus Christ’s living perfectly in my place, and in his dying to pay the price my sins owed, I am forgiven, I am right with God, I have eternal life. In Christ, everyone who believes has all of this and more!
In summary: never be surprised by sin. I never am anymore. But I’m always surprised at God’s grace to me.