Wednesday, December 08, 2010

To Blush

This morning while waiting for the weather report on the radio, the announcer reported a study conducted by an on-line service that helps facilitate adulterous affairs (yes, such a site exists and, unfortunately, is quite popular).  According to this site, men give more expensive gifts to their mistresses than to their wives at Christmas.  
Apparently that’s news.  
I was not shocked to find out this bit of information, I was just embarrassed.  And yet for the news commentators, one male and one female, this was just an interesting and saucy bit of news-worthy information to be bandied for thirty seconds before the weather report began.  (And perhaps the commentators were embarrassed.  You cannot easily tell the attitude of someone's heart from their voice, especially the trained voice of a radio announcer.)
One of the conditions of a people who have forsaken God according to the prophet Jeremiah is that “they don’t even know how to blush.”  That married men and women have lovers is nothing new.  Why would God have to tell His people not to commit adultery if it were not common?   And it is not surprising that wealthy men and women give expensive gifts to their lovers.  Why would they need to give expensive gifts to their spouses who already have access to much of their wealth?  Throughout the ages and in all cultures, married men and women have been tempted to be unfaithful, and many have been unfaithful; but what is a particular manifestation of an advanced state of degeneracy is the inability to be ashamed about it.
And yet I think salvation is still possible.  I blushed when I heard this on the news.  I’m sure hundreds, maybe thousands, of others blushed.  I think it is possible to feel shame on another’s behalf.  I think this is part of the way “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  
When Lot was in Sodom, “his righteous soul was vexed day by day as he saw and heard of the unrighteous deeds of those he lived among” (2 Peter 2:8).  God spared the entire city so long as one person living there was “vexed” in his soul by the lawlessness he encountered.  One man blushed for the whole city.  
Moral outrage often is nothing but a waste of energy, and sometimes it is a platform for arrogance and self righteousness.  Moral outrage goes nowhere.  Shame, however, works in the heart and in the soul.  Shame creates a contrite heart, a contrite heart that God does not despise (Psa. 50/51).  When Lot felt shame, God sent an Angel to investigate.  When Lot felt shame, God sent His friend Abraham to intercede.  One man’s vexed soul moved heaven and earth on behalf of a sinful city.
In the end, not even God could save Sodom.  Man’s freedom is a profound mystery that even God does not violate.  If we consistently choose to pervert reality, God will give us the fruit of that perversion.  But before God can give the people of Sodom over to destruction, before the earth itself responds in perversity equal to that of men’s hearts, God removes from the city Lot, the one man who blushes.
To blush, to feel shame, to be vexed in our souls for the sins we see and hear about (our own and others'), this is one of the ways God saves a city, a family, a woman or a man.

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