In suburban America we sanitize and nice-ify everything.
Government agencies do a pretty good job cleaning up the rivers that we walk along and boat on. Health departments keep the restaurant kitchens where we eat clean and safe. Stores re-do their facades and interiors so we’ll buy more in their shiny, state-of-the-art, copacetic mercantile. This year’s models are better, prettier, safer, cleaner.
We want our lives to be beautiful, free from baser reality. No ugliness allowed…. even though it’s often just below the surface or in the back room.
We do this in church life, too.
The ugliness of sin can be tamed by renaming: Greed becomes consumerism (essential to building our economy); pride is really having a good self-image (after all, if I don’t assert myself and my rights, who will?) gossip (because we need to pray for him/her) is necessary sharing, born out of concern, not envy.
We spend so much effort covering up these and more! What if we applied the same amount of energy to confessing and repenting?
In Romans 1:21-23 Paul describes what is actually happening when we choose sanitizing instead of confessing sin:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
First, notice that he is speaking to those who knew God and who should have known better– to believers. Next, look at the progression: from wisdom to foolishness; from knowing God, to futile thinking, to darkened hearts. This subtle downward vortex happens in tiny increments until the unthinkable becomes natural and easy: the exchange of the glory of God for something else.
[T]hey exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Rom. 1:25
As I type this, my heart aches – physically – over our apostasy. I am beginning to understand the deep grief that caused those in the Old Testament to rip their robes at blasphemy.
We know better! The glory of God is like nothing else! Why do we so easily trade it away?
OK. I’m taking an emotional breath. Back to the text. Some believers in Rome had gone back to worshiping images. For most of us that isn’t an issue. We didn’t worship statues of Zeus, Diana, or Mercury.
But what did we worship?
What have we gone back to worshiping?
What have we exchanged for the glory of God?
READY FOR SUNDAY
Worship leaders and team members we get this, don’t we? We have the privilege of seeing the glory of God transform a room full of believers as they sing with their whole hearts and upturned faces, raising their hands in adoration.
So why do we exchange that for baser realities? Why do we get distracted as we lead others in worship? Why do we wonder if we look OK? If our shirts are pitted out with sweat from the effort of praising under hot lights? If that note was a little sharp? If we’ll get to play the solo we owned at rehearsal, or if the worship leader will forget and blow right by it? Why?
Because we are still to concerned with self and not enough with God. We are exchanging the glory of God for image, pride, and self. When we strip off the sanitized distractions and look at what’s underneath them, the ugliness is unmistakeable. And this is the beginning of repentance, where healing, wholeness, and the glory of God begins again.