How often haven’t you seen it? Even worse, how often haven’t you been it? Someone gives into temptation once and then is sucked into a sin they cannot escape until they reach the point that they no longer want to escape it, and not only do no not want to escape it, but advocate it for others as good and meet and right. There are plenty of societal examples, but the gospel does not make Christian societies, it makes Christian individuals, and so unduly dwelling on the sins of society can sometimes blur our vision, because, in doing so, we overlook our own sins, the sins that actually take us to hell, and in time consider them somehow less fatal than the sins outside our doors.
Trust me, brothers and sisters, such sins as were once condemned in society, at least superficially, if not seriously, are now no longer simply outside your family’s doors, or outside the church’s walls. And there is plenty in our own closets, too, in the recesses of our minds, in our search histories and personal relationships, to keep us busy with personal repentance, that could lead plenty an unbeliever to blush, to marvel at our hypocrisy. And yet how often don’t we press on, tone deaf and sanctimonious, in loveless and self-interested condemnation of others, in a personal quest to expose the wrongdoing or wrong thinking of those we conveniently label the next big threat, whether to our religious institutions or cultural or political presuppositions? In my opinion, one of the worst condemnations pronounced in Scripture is this one: “Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 6:15). Jeremiah repeats this verse again, like a refrain, in chapter 8.
When was the last time you blushed, not because you got caught, and not because you looked stupid, but because you were ashamed? When was the last time you thought about how your actions have harmed or failed to serve your neighbors? Do we know how to blush, or do we use pharisaical blush to conceal our transgression, couching and hiding it in euphemisms, excuses, and comparisons to other sins or sinners? Sin is the horse, and hell is the cart. If we can smell the sulfur in other’s sins but not our own, it’s time to be concerned with our sense of smell.
So what should we do? Take a cold shower. Douse your corrupt body and mind in the frigid waters of repentance. Return to your baptism, joining tears of sorrow to the flood of God’s grace, and correct your vision. Look through the eyes of Christ, to whom you are joined through the gospel, the power of God, from our last devotion. And use those same eyes to see your neighbors. St. Paul goes from describing the gospel and the righteous who live by faith to now depicting those who live by unbelief. You can see the contrast in the text. See it in real life. Return to Christ. Return to verse 17, and fear ever stepping into the realm of verses 18 to 32 again. This is nowhere for righteousness to trod, because righteousness walks where its source and owner wills, and its source and owner is God, who gives his righteousness to you in Christ, through the gospel.
The righteous shall live by faith, immersed always anew in their baptism, where they put God’s righteousness on. The unrighteous shall live by unbelief, immersed always anew in the dissipation of the flesh, where God’s righteousness cannot remain. “What can be known about God is plain” to you, not only through our natural knowledge of things, but now also through the gospel. Know him, because through the gospel, he knows you, and he loves you, and he rescues you from the mess in which you’ve wallowed, and he wants to do the same for those around you, too.