Sin is insanity. Sin doesn’t make sense. And for that reason sin always looks for an excuse, justification. And for the same reason, any excuse will do, any justification will work because there really isn’t a good one.
All sin makes matters worse. But we momentarily pretend that sin is the solution, our salvation, our deliverance. Things are not going my way, so I will get angry. Things are taking too long, so I will demand them. I am sexually frustrated so I will serve my lusts. I do not feel respected or honored enough, so I will criticize the success of others. I am depressed and lonely so I will drink until the pain is numb. I have no direction so I will sit here and watch movies and play video games and check facebook every five minutes. I was late to work, so I will lie to my boss. It’s all insane. It never makes sense.
But this isn’t the same thing as saying that sin is completely random. From the perspective of grace, walking in the Light, sin can look horribly schizophrenic and at times completely out of nowhere. But grace also teaches us wisdom, and that wisdom can see the way seeds are planted, sprout, and grow up into big problems. While sin is a certain breed of insanity, it has it’s own predictable logic and trajectory. And that logic includes the need for justification.
Because God is good and righteous and holy, and we are made in His image. We have an inherent need and deep desire for goodness, righteousness, and holiness. In other words, we like being right. We like when things come together, are harmonious, make sense. Only those who are truly mentally handicapped can be at ease with being wrong or inconsistent. And even then, we probably don’t realize or understand how it’s still not that simple.
So a sinner sins, but he needs to be vindicated. He needs a reason why it’s OK, why it’s fine, why it was the only way, the only solution, the only way of escape. Christians can and do have momentary lapses into this self-justification, but the Spirit doesn’t allow it for long. The Spirit yearns jealously, and we wake up with a headache and we can see the bone sticking out and know that we contradicted the grace of God. Our sin dislocated His goodness and kindness. And so we repent. We cry out for mercy. We claim the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin. And we take steps to restore what we have broken and precautions to prevent it from happening again. But the Christian repents out of gratitude. The Christian repents up to his armpits in grace. The Christian repents because he sees how his sin is a detour away from the blessing and goodness of God. Grace is sweet, and sin is bitter. Repentance is just spitting out the moldy peaches as quickly as possible, and gulping down God’s goodness as quickly as we can, trying to get that foul tast out of our mouths. For the Christian, repentance is like going home, and sin is being lost in the woods. Repentance can be hard, but it’s always comforting, refreshing.
But one of the surest signs that someone doesn’t really know God is the fact that they don’t get this grace. It’s not light and darkness, sweet and bitter, joy and sorrow. Unbelievers sin but don’t really understand what sin is. They touch something hot, and it hurts. But then they touch it again. And maybe over time, they learn a little bit of cause and effect, but not much. And you can tell they don’t understand grace because they’re still trying to justify themselves. They compare themselves to other sinners. They explain their actions away. They are still defensive and prickly, very concerned about being misjudged, misunderstood.
But grace is the goodness of the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God of the universe. Grace isn’t just a lucky break. Grace isn’t a close call. Grace is the personal blessing of a personal God. He looks down, knows you’re a screwup, knows you deserve hardship, knows you deserve to eat your hat, and then He decides to give you grace. He gives mercy. He gives kindness. He gives relief. But unbelief doesn’t see this. Unbelief just sees random hardship, random lucky breaks, and ultimately unbelief does this because unbelief doesn’t understand grace.
There’s no need to be defensive. There’s no need to explain. There’s no need to compare yourself to others. We’re all screwups, but God is good. We’re all sinners, but Jesus died for sinners. We’re all guilty, but God justifies the ungodly.
We do need justice. We do need justification. But our justice isn’t big enough. We need a justice grounded in love, grounded in grace.