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Seventy Digital, May 4 2018

Human Failings

Biblical reflections on recent news stories

Watching the news in recent months (years), there seems to have been a running theme of well-known people falling from grace.

It began with the Jimmy Savile scandal and the accusations against many 1970s stars that followed. The pressure in America to remove Civil War statues led some in the UK to question statues of people such as Nelson because of their links with the slave trade.

More recently the Harvey Weinstein story has prompted a wave of accusations about sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviour; as I write, reports are emerging about UK politicians from across the political spectrum. Even renowned human rights leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has had her name removed from colleges because of her response to the Rohingya Crisis. All of which has caused me to ponder the nature of human failings and light that the Bible sheds on these events.

1. All humans sin

as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [Romans, Chapter 3, Verses 10 and 23, ESV]

The Bible makes it clear that all humans sin. The very first humans were removed from God’s presence in the Garden of Eden because they failed to follow the one rule they were given: Disobeying any of God’s instructions in our life or thinking that we can decide right and wrong for ourselves is the essence of sin which God takes very seriously. Within a generation, one of Adam and Eve’s sons murdered his own sibling and soon human sin was so endemic that God regretted making humans.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. [Genesis, Chapter 6, Verses 5 & 6, ESV]

We should not be surprised that stories about well-known people break: they are human and they sin. If we place absolute faith in people — be they t.v. personalities who made children’s dreams come true; politicians; human rights campaigners; Hollywood Superstars or anyone else — they will let us down. “No-one is righteous, no not one!”

2. We should be careful about judging

In some recent stories, public figures have done terrible things that we would never imagine doing ourselves, hence we feel a sense of moral outrage. In other stories we perhaps recognise aspects of our own behaviour, but maybe feel that those in positions of responsibility are more accountable. However, the Bible cautions us to always be wary of judging others.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew, Chapter 7, Verse 1, NIV)In some of the reported cases, offences took place some time ago, often when the people were still very young. How many of us would welcome every word we have spoken, written or typed being held up for public scrutiny? I know that I would not! In which case, I am being hypocritical when I judge personalities on such things.

But even when the offences are beyond those we have ever committed, the Bible still reminds us that it is not for us to judge. In Matthew Chapter 5, Jesus says that those who have got angry with another person have committed “murder in their hearts” and anyone who has looked lustfully at another person has committed adultery. From God’s perspective, we are murderous adulterers — no wonder He was grieved to have made humans.

None of this means that those in public office or with a high public profile should not try to live by the highest standards (the Bible is clear that those in such positions are expected to set a good example); such people should always be held to account by legally appointed authorities. However, it does mean what we should not be quick to pass judgment in our hearts or imagine that we are somehow better — all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

3. Only God can be relied on

If humans are marked by sin, unfaithfulness and error, the Bible clearly portrays God as Holy. God’s holiness is absolute perfection, righteousness and complete separation from sin. He is the One who can be relied upon in every situation, will never let us down and who will always behave according to His own absolute moral standard.

For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. [Revelation, Chapter 15, Verse 4, NIV]

I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. [Deuteronomy, Chapter 32, Verses 3–4, NIV]He will never leave you nor forsake you [Deuteronomy, Chapter 1, Verse 6, NIV]

When we set up humans as role-models or put them on pedestals, they always let us down and disappoint us. God, however, never will. He is perfect and never changes. He will never leave, abandon or let us down.

When we set up humans as role-models or put them on pedestals, they always let us down and disappoint us. God, however, never will. He is perfect and never changes. He will never leave, abandon or let us down.

4. We need forgiveness

Because we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory, we have no right to be with a holy God. We need forgiveness. Thankfully for us, God has provided a means by which all of us can find that forgiveness and so be re-united to our Father in Heaven.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. [John, Chapter 3, Verses 16–18, ESV]

God took the initiative and sent His own Son (actually part of His own being) to be crucified in our place. Jesus paid the price that the God of justice decreed is right for all sin — death and separation from Him — the price that we deserve. The only way to find forgiveness for the many sins we have all committed is to believe and trust in Jesus, seeking forgiveness through Him and making Him our LORD. When we do this, God declares our sins forgiven, making it possible for us to be united to Him, but also sends His Holy Spirit to live in us. That Spirit challenges and changes us, helping us to become more like the person God wants us to be.

This need of forgiveness is true for the person who used their fame to abuse others; it is true of the politician who failed to protect people they represent — and it is true of you and me as we sit in judgment on those celebrities.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! [Romans, Chapter 7, Verses 24–25, ESV]


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Seventy Digital