It seems like it would likely be difficult to defend a God who allows us to be in a situation where any choice we could make would be sin, where there is no 'righteous' act. But in fact, this God is perfectly consistent with who God tells us that He is. In God's eyes, it is never an act that makes us righteous anyway; it is always him. We do not do righteous things; we are made righteous.
And this is no more true than when we must confess that there are times when we simply must be sinners.
The argument we've been playing with this week is our assertion that it may not be a sin to lie if that lie saves the life of an innocent person. The "lesser" sin of lying preserves the greater good of an innocent life and therefore, the lie, not being the most sinful act is not actually sinful at all. But as we saw yesterday, there is a great theological difficulty in trying to defend a God who claims to be truth if this very same God sometimes permits us to lie.
There is not, however, the same theological difficulty in defending (or embracing) a God who loves us despite our lie.
It feels like a subtle difference, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In the first scenario, we are talking about a God who justifies sin, which has never been true of our God. Not once. Never in the Scriptures do we hear our God say, Please, go on sinning. But in the second scenario, we are talking about a God who justifies sinners, and that is His entire testimony. It's what He's always done.
From a practical perspective, this is great, as well. In the first scenario, I have a God who makes it okay for me to do certain things. In the second, I have a God who makes me okay. That's good news.
It's no good news to say to someone that guess what! We have a God who sometimes makes it okay to do certain things that in other situations might be questionable or even detestable, as long as we can properly discern what those situations are and apply a certain measure of wisdom to this whole process. (Try putting that one in sermon form.) But on the other hand, it is not just good news, but great news, to say that guess what! We have a God who understands our fallen nature so well that He can redeem us even from our broken world.
And that's what's really happening here. God is redeeming us from the broken world that forces us to do fallen things. It's not that lying is okay; it's not. No matter what the circumstance, the God who is the Truth does not condone lying. But neither does He condemn the sinner whose heart is turned toward Him.
In theological terms, we say not that He overlooks the sin, for God could never do that, but that He "imputes pardon" to the sinner. This is essential to our understanding of the dynamic here. A pardon is not necessary if no sin has been committed. But a pardon is amazing grace for the sinner.
What seems easy is in fact quite complicated, but what seems difficult is truly amazing. It's called grace. And it's what our God has always done, justifying sinners but never sin.