Just and Sinner
Recently, in the question and answer portion of an event, someone asked me how the holy God could live in sinners like us. I confess that for some moments my mind went in various directions, trying to find an answer that was clear and satisfactory. I don’t know if I managed to find such an answer. I recognized that I was before another of those mysteries we encounter in various places in the Bible.
Later, when I was alone, I reflected once more on the fact that the reality around us is permeated by this apparent contradiction. Nature, the world, and people are immersed in a reality where God’s grace, holiness, justice, and mercy mix in a not always comprehensible way with imperfection, impurity, darkness, and death. I see this in myself. At the same time that I notice the grace of God in my life, I notice my incapacity to be just and right all the time. My words, my sermons, my writings—they all reflect at the same time holiness and the fall, purity and imperfection, life and death.
In a way that I cannot comprehend, God is present in me, even though I remain a corrupt sinner in all my faculties. The God who lived in the imperfect temple of the Old Testament can also live in the imperfect temple that is me. His presence in this world is equally mysterious. Even though creation is in a state of fall, decomposition, and death, God is present in it, sustaining it and guiding its story to the end He has already determined.
Because of this, salvation and judgment are also present and active in the world. God is graciously saving sinners through the gospel while at the same time pouring out judgment on the ungodly and unrepentant. The kingdom of God is already present, but not in its fullness. Christ already reigns, but He hasn’t yet ultimately defeated His last enemy, which is death. Satan has already been defeated but remains active against the church. I have been justified and sanctified by Christ, but I am still a sinner and will experience death (unless the Lord returns first). In the Christian experience, good and evil are interwoven until the consummation of history, until the coming of Christ. No good in us is entirely free from the stain of sin, and we are not beyond redemption on this side of glory.
In practice, this mystery represents many challenges to the Christian. On one hand, a Christian should live by faith, trusting that even amid sin and evil, the grace and mercy of God are present. On the other hand, a Christian must also resolve to live in this unresolved tension. Just and sinner. Reflecting the imperfections of our greatest actions, prayers, and thoughts in spite of our best efforts toward living a holy life. Mourning and crying over our sins, but rejoicing in the mercy of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ. And yearning and desiring for the second coming of the Lord, when this tension will finally be resolved. May the Lord Jesus come quickly.