I’m currently reading a book about spiritual formation, and the author mentions the Jack Miller (pastor, author, missionary) quote I’ve used as the title of my post. I liked it, because it reminded me of something I was thinking about during the readings at our Sunday worship service. Here are the verses that caught my attention:
“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgement. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:1-5
In other words, we’re going to be judged someday by God Himself. That should strike terror in us! But often we read these verses smugly, thinking, I don’t do those things. I haven’t committed adultery or practiced sorcery…. I’m not even an employer so I can’t be guilty of unfair wages. I practice hospitality, and so on. I’ve thought these things myself.
However, Jesus teaches us to look deeper. We’ve committed adultery in our hearts if we think lustful thoughts about someone other than our spouse; the clothes on the backs of most Americans are produced through the exploited labor of people in other countries; many argue that our immigration laws and policies are unfeeling and unfair toward immigrants (our sojourners), we don’t fear God because we secretly think we’re the “good” people … and so on. I don’t claim there is an easy answer to these issues, but we must face up to the fact that we are indeed worse than we like to think. We sin in thought, word and deed and we do it every day.
Jack Miller evidently had a response for this too: “Cheer up, God loves you more than you know!” We’ll be judged for our sins, but not condemned, because God Himself has paid the penalty. That’s what Advent is really about. So be merry, not because of the gifts under your tree, but for the true and lasting gift of salvation given to those who believe.
For more about sin see these posts:
Sin and Grace
Occasions of Sin
Martin Luther on Sin