“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” Jn. 1:29
Today’s readings have a warning to those who corrupt God’s commandments, replacing them with meaningless talk and deception. A relationship with God depends on our acknowledgement of the need for redemption from sin and acceptance of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb of God for all peoples.
[God affirms that he has chosen the people of Abraham because of his love and promise to their ancestors; but it comes with a warning.]
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. . . The Lord did not set his affection on you because you were more numerous. . . but it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors. . . . Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction.”
[Paul warns against those who are full of meaningless talk, offering an alternate way to truth that does not include God]
“For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception.. . Pay no attention to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.”
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! . . I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
A college professor once told me, “Heresies are always so convincing because you can make them up as you go. There is no need to base the argument in fact.” The hard truth of the gospel starts with our need for a sacrificial lamb to atone for our sins. If we have no sin, there is no need for atonement.
It is not hard to eliminate our sinfulness. Years ago we were inundated with “I’m OK, You’re OK.”—implying that “there are no bad people, only bad choices.” This was especially evident in our education system. All comments were to be worded in the positive. Children were taught to assess themselves. Deficits in learning or performance were replaced with “I can” statements or “not yet.” While this created a generation of children with positive self-esteem, at times, it often lowered the bar to mediocrity and being satisfied with work that simply “good enough.”
Unfortunately, this philosophy dominates our culture to the point where “sin” is an antiquated word with no meaning. We created our own standards whereby, if “it feels good, do it.” “I” am at the center of the universe and “I” determine what is right or wrong for me. In this world, there is no accountability to God. The sacrificial lamb is not needed. We are all OK.
The Apostle Paul warns against those with deceptive arguments: “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” (Titus 1:16). This is radically counter-cultural. It is a hard saying, but it is the first step towards change.
Lord, we hide our sinfulness from ourselves, convinced that we are “trying our best”. We like Jesus until it gets personal. Give us eyes to see God’s truth so that we can confess our sins and receive atonement through Christ’s sacrifice. Without this, forgiveness is impossible. Amen