Separation? Sanctification?

How does God look unflinchingly on this world and remain holy?

I’m not talking about viewing evil deeds done in secret; in bedrooms, prison basements, isolated places, and slums. If we mortals were to view even a fraction of the brutalization, the depravity, the anguish at any given moment, it would cripple us mentally and emotionally. Talk about PTSD. No… add to that wicked motives, imaginations, scheming, the sheer unmitigated selfishness of the human creature and you’ve got some small notion of what God sees all the time.

(Yes, He also sees love, hope, sacrifice, mercy, courage, however awkward or incomplete, but I’m making a point here.)

Passed off as “Sanctification”, there’s a prevalent notion in Christianity that believers mustn’t mention, view, or discuss the specifics of a sinful world after their conversion. If forced to do so, then it must be neutered and saccharine. I’m not minimizing the crucial issues of character or boundaries, or legitimizing being deliberately crass and offensive, but we must recognize facts – however unpleasant – without reveling in them.

Even a cursory glance at the Bible tells you God doesn’t separate Himself from creation. He does not retreat – He is immanent and involved, or as the Psalmist wrote “a very present help in time of trouble.” Jesus was never concerned with touching the “unclean” – the leper, the hooker, the tax collector, the demoniac, the sick, the dead – because those things didn’t effect Him. They didn’t render Him any less holy, any less God. In fact, His touch made them whole.

God does not preserve His holiness by distance but engages fallen humanity precisely at the point of need. That’s what the Incarnation and the Cross are all about, and redemption is only possible when we’re willing to be brutally honest and face both sin and God.

So back to the idea of addressing reality when communicating in art, sermons, fiction, film, whatever… to ignore cancer altogether is just as fatal as calling it the flu because that’s easier to treat. Playing it safe didn’t get a nation of slaves out of Egypt. Being nice didn’t deliver the Gadarene demoniac. Christians are called to be salt and light, to be in the world but not of it. Jesus promised to preserve us by His Name, His Spirit, and His Word, and at the end of John’s Gospel, He tells the disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Consider this next time you worry about leaving your comfort zone and getting your hands dirty in whatever field God has called you to: Jesus left Heaven – the ultimate “Gated Community” – to come down here and rescue us. Innocent, He endured the brutality and humiliation of a criminal’s crucifixion.

But we know the end of the story, and the Resurrection should give us all the confidence we need to step out and do the same in His Name.

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