I was particularly convicted by my devotional reading this morning. Calvin Seerveld was discussing Isaiah 1:10-20. “We Christians” he says, that is me, born and raised in something like a Christian home. Going to church most Sundays, reading our Bible methodically, praying before we eat — It is horribly easy to become accustomed to the routine and end up sleepwalking through our so-called worship. I go to church on Sunday, seeing it more of a mandatory social event then coming before God Himself to be cleansed and fed. My mind wanders during confession and I barely am aware of the words I speak throughout the liturgy. I try to keep my littles quietly content throughout the message, and then I take the sacraments, just trying to get through it all without anyone spilling the wine or leaving crumbs everywhere. I forget how remarkably precious and serious and glorious it is. And then I go home and go about my week as if nothing were different. Leaving things undone “that ought to be done” and doing things “that ought not to be done” just like we recite every week in church during corporate confession (but that doesn’t occur to me because I wasn’t really praying in earnest, I was just reciting the words on my bulletin). I know I am forgiven so how urgent is seeking to change, really? Can’t I just put that “chore” further down on my list until the laundry is done/that thank you note has been written/my kids are older? It’s not like anyone is going to confront me about not changing my ways, right?
The point of Isaiah is this: our lily-white hands are full of blood. Because we Christians specialize in sins of omission – not doing what should be done – and because we are rocked by the rhythm of our regular worship, and because we are so high-minded and orthodox and intelligent and what not, that is why we can hardly see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Law
And Isaiah says clearly, to those who do take a look, that what is blood-red cannot just turn snow-white. The miraculous change happens only in response to repentant people, and then obedient followers. And who here has recently left penitent after a meeting, praying for grace to obey the Lord?
If you will draw close to me and be obedient, you will enjoy the good of the earth;
if you refuse and are disobedient, you will be taken by the sword.
Thus says the LORD to those who have eyes to see and blood on their hands.
“You will be taken by the sword.” Whoa! That doesn’t sound as casual as it initially seemed. And so my excuses begin, “But I’m trying, God! It’s just that…I am really busy right now with my little kids! and my husband is in school right now so life is kinda crazy and I am basically a nice person, and I’m only human, what more could I possibly do?” Earlier in the chapter, Seerveld reminds “us Christians” that our offerings to God are no good if what we are offering is not what He asks for. What does God ask for then?
You may slay fatted calves of external perfunctory blamelessness on the altar of the LORD God, says God Almighty, but what I want is for you
to act justly and correct the injustices happening under your noses;to love mercy and show kindness to your immediate neighbour,
and humbly keep my commandments…(see Micah 6:8.)
Which person here keeps the commandments of God? says Jesus Christ:
she who has been angry with her neighbour without cause, is a murderer;
he who looks lustfully at a girl, has committed adultery. (Cf. Matthew 5:22, 28)
And Scripture says,
he who presents goods which he has not earned by working, is a thief;
she who seems religious, but does not bridle her tongue — such a person’s religion is in vain;
he who has not opened his home for a stranger or helped the weak, has not opened his home for Jesus Christ. (Cf. Ephesians 4:28, James 1:26-27, Matthew 25:31-46)
I look down and suddenly I can’t breathe: my hands are dripping with fresh blood. I am so very guilty.
The truth is that we all sin all the time. But we often forget how devastating our sins are. Perhaps it is because we have cheapened forgiveness. We have cheapened sacrifice. We have cheapened the cross. True contrition spurs us to action. We are so very sorry that we can’t help but actively seek to reform ourselves. “We Christians” the guilty. “We Christians” with blood-stained hands. “We Christians” need to cry out:
be merciful to us we pray.
We confess our sin to you before one another.
Each of us, Lord, covets attention and puts self before the other.
Each of us is particularly unlovely, proud, dirty, even blood-stained with guilt.
We confess it and dare to ask: work in us with the Spirit; teach us to repent…
We pray for one another, Lord, for those who we love least, in their problems;
for those that cry at the work; for those who do not care; for those who are so tired; for those with a history to overcome; for those who do not know how to pray.
draw us close to you in the crises ahead.
Teach us obedience to the Law of love, for you and for one another.
Teach us to pray in Christ’s name.