It is the stuff of water-cooler conversations. Jane just conveniently happened to feel thirsty when Sophie pushed back her office chair. The two women met at the water-dispenser, where the usual chit-chat started.
But before the gossip can get juicier, Sophie shows up, and the conversation quickly switches to something about Mr. Njoroge of HR and how obnoxious he is.
It is easy to talk about someone else when they’re not there. More specifically, it is easy to say negative things (true or false) about them when they are out of ear-shot. It is not the same thing with compliments. We actually long to be overheard while saying positive things about a person. But when it comes to God, we actually don’t mind saying negative things about Him even when He is listening.
I have found it helpful to re-imagine my sins as being committed in the physical presence of God. For instance, when I lie, I think about what that means in my relationship with God. I imagine God is standing there with me while I am doing it. He and I know the truth. He clearly told me to tell the truth, and even though I heard Him, I chose to do otherwise.
I ignored God, disrespected him, paid no attention to Him. I treated him as dirt, inconsequential and having no say in my decision. I exercised my independence, freedom from His will and desires. I looked Him in the face and spat on it. He extended His hand and I slapped it away. He called out my name and I ignored His voice. I did something that, for the life of me, I cannot even imagine doing to my own mother. And yet God is more important than my mother — or at least He ought to be.
But every day, whenever I sin, I despise God. I treat Him worse than my boss. I don’t fear Him. Come to think of it, why don’t we just ignore our bosses or say negative things about them to their face? Why don’t we do the same to our friends? Many reasons come to mind: respect, common courtesy, personal pride, fear of shame, losing the job or the relationship… But with God, we often act as if we have nothing to lose by disobeying Him.
When I sin against God, I am always doing it in His presence. I am treating Him worse than my friend. I do not care about His feelings, His happiness, His desires. I easily take up the knife and stab Him in the front — He sees it coming (because it is impossible to stab an all-knowing God in the back), and I do it anyway. It is barbaric.
The sad and serious fact about this thought experiment is that it is not an experiment. It is a reality whenever we sin against God. You don’t have to imagine God is there when you are denying and betraying and spitting on His face, HE IS THERE.
I encourage you to try this. Do this, but don’t only do this. Do something more. After you have confronted your sin, your crime against God, it is easy to fall into despair. It is easy to beat yourself up. But don’t do that, because that is only adding to the list of offenses against God.
When you have confronted your sin and realized what you have done against God, look at what God has done in response. What He has done because of your sin, and despite your sin.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
The God of the Bible is the boss letting you keep your job after He caught you stealing office supplies (for the 100th time). He is the friend who hugs you more tightly after you have stabbed Him in the back (for the third time). He is the object of your gossip confessing to you that you are the object of His affection, despite your wicked actions.
This is called grace. Like Peter, you can confront the reality of denying a Christ who is looking you straight in the eye, and then accepting His forgiveness. Or like Judas, you can confront the reality of betraying Christ with a kiss, and still slapping away His forgiving hand.