6.24.2015

Who Could Stand

We often lament how polarizing our society has become without realizing our own contribution to that polarization.  Whether it's race, politics, or racial politics, how often have we shared something with friends or on Facebook in a spirit of "can you believe how dumb/ignorant/evil so-and-so is?"  I've written about this before, about how quickly we assume that if someone disagrees with us, it must be either they are ignorant (they don't know better) or evil (they know exactly what's going on and are willfully choosing the more heinous way), without considering that is possible to have an informed and moral position that is opposite ours.

But I'm not even talking about that today.  Let's assume for a minute that we are talking about something that is truly ignorant and evil.  Let's assume that what we are talking about is no mere quibbling over differences of opinions, but is rather something of far-reaching and severe consequences.  Let's assume that we're talking about life and death, about degradation and destruction and tragedy.

Shall we distance ourselves from such ignorance and evil, pointing fingers from our loftier position so as to let others know that we are not like that, and so as to soothe our own ego that we are better than others?  Or shall we lament the depravity of our wretched human condition, which we are not untainted by?  There are many examples in the Bible, Nehemiah and Daniel being the two that come to my mind now, of morally upright people coming before God at a time of great sin and using "we" instead of "they" (emphasis below is mine):

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. – Daniel 9:4-5

When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said, “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. – Nehemiah 1:4-6

Even when we are faced with truly destructive ignorance and evil, let us be humble in our hearts in our posture before our fellow humans and before our God.  Let us acknowledge that “but for the grace of God,” or as David puts it in Psalm 130: “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.”  We are all in need of such favor.  May God have mercy on us all.
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