Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Schwarzenegger's Confession gives way to Christ's Profession of Grace and Repentence

It's now official.

Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cheated on his wife Maria Shriver, and in the most clichéd fashion. He had an affair with his long-time live-in maid. After fathering a child with the woman, Schwarzenegger provided her and her child a new home in Bakersfield, though the maid continued working for the Governor and his family under a cloud of secrecy which kept the wife, kids, and the world at large in the dark.

I think the extensive media attention exposing this man's sin is just as sinful, distracting frail humanity from their own foibles, which in God's eyes are just as bad, even if they are not overt or exposed. Where do any of us get the idea that we are instantly morally superior because we have not stepped out on our spouses or have engaged in overtly unseemly conduct?

Jesus said that if we even lusts in hearts, we have committed adultery (Matt 5:28). We may not bed, rape, or molest someone, but if we have transgressed someone in our minds, we are just as guilty as the politicians, preachers, and pundits whom we so heedlessly condemn in the press.

By, expounding that God is also God of our thought-life, Jesus cast down once and for all the feigned fidelity of the Pharisees, the religious sect which in Jesus' time claimed the undeserved allegiance and admiration of many: "Your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees." (Matt. 5:20) He also undid any presumptuous claim to moral uprightness on our part in today's world.Scripture makes the universal depravity of man clear-cut: "For we have all sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23)

Regarding intimate matters, not only are we all sinners, we are all like the adulterous woman featured in the Gospel of John Chapter 8. This flagrant woman was caught in the act of adultery, then put on impromptu trial by the vicious Pharisees, who were seeking to trap Jesus and undo his forceful grace-filled message of the Gospel.

Though we may not now be dragged and thrusted trembling before a public forum of self-righteous zealots, we all stand before God. We cannot hide our sins, whether public or private, from our all-seeing, all-knowing Father in Heaven (Heb 4:13).
For example, do we flirt with other who are not our spouses or significant others? Are we introverts in public, but perverts in private? Going no further than our minds, do we "slide into third base" with every person we meet, whether we actually accomplish anything physically? In these matters, no one can seriously claim to meet God's standard for moral purity.

Now, should this shocking revelation drive us into despair?

Yes, and No! Consider what Jesus did when confronted with the virulent hypocrisy of the Pharisees:

"Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:5-11, KJV)

Jesus came to redeem us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13), including "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Ex. 20). Despite his legitimage authority to have the adulteroud woman executed, Jesus did not judge the woman (John 8:15), but rather gave sight to those who were blind, and to blind those who claimed to see (John 9:39). The adulteress was blinded by her sin; the Pharisees, who claimed to see well enough that they wanted to put her death, Jesus did not let off so easily. He held the Pharisees to the same standard by which they were condemning the woman. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." One by one the Pharisees trailed off, tossing away their stones. Why? Their conscience testified against them loud and clear (v9), their inner discernment of right from wrong which declared without fail their own failure to live up to the moral law.

The law of Moses first prevents us from judging one another, for we are guilty. Then it brings us into absolute, dependent submission to the one who can save us, Jesus! For the law is our schoolmaster that leads us to Christ." (Gal. 3:24)

After the Pharisees left, John said "Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8: 10-11, KJV). It's important to note here that Jesus refers to the sinner with great respect, just as he spoke to his Mother at the Wedding in Cana (John 2). More importatnly, the woman refers to Jesus as "Lord", not just "Rabbi", or even "friend". She believes on him, trusts him to save her and that makes her righteous. Compare Abraham before the LORD: "And Abraham believed the LORD, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:6), the very righteousness that saves every believer from death and ushers him into eternal life.

Consider also Zechariah Chapter 3, a manifestation in the Old Testament of the Saving Grace to come. Joshua the high priest stands covered in filthy rags before the Angel of the Lord, the Pre-incarnate Christ. Satan, the Accuser (like the self-righteous Pharisees in John 8) stands off to the side, speaking against Joshua, judging him for his sin.

How does Jesus deal with Satan? "The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan!" (Zech. 3:2)
Does Jesus just leave Joshua as is, dirty and down? Not at all!

He then says, "Take away the filthy garments from him. Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee. . . and I will clothe thee with a change of raiment." (Zech. 3:3)

What raiment does he give to naked, trembling, accused, caught-in-the-act sinners?

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion. . .the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Is. 61:3)


" [God] hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." (Is. 61:10)

In light of these promises, Jesus indeed clothes the adulterous woman with righteousness, his grace, not hers. He gives her reason to praise, for by his righteous defense she has escaped death and has received her life, with the fullest love from Jesus, the kind of love that she was so desperate to find in marriages and lovers.

This woman is not the first morally depraved figure whom Jesus meets and redeems. Consider the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar in John 4. She was lowly esteemed in the community, in a sense a veritable sex offender. Breaking all social conventions of the time, addressing a woman, a Samaritan woman, and a woman with a sordid history, even by Samaritan standards, Jesus asked her for a drink. She tried to put him in his place, but in the end Jesus exposed her fruitless yearnings, having married five times and living in fornication with a sixth man. Rather than condemning the woman, he simply revealed everything which she had deluded herself into thinking that she could keep forever private. Not from God, however. Yet Jesus did not condemn the woman, thrust her from his presence, throw her down the well. He offered her Living Water, the only thing that could who satisfy her.

Overcome with joy at meeting the Messiah, she ran into the village to proclaim her faith and his arrival. Jesus' private admonition became a public confession, not of shame, but of faith!

Thus, we should not look down on the downfall of public figures for their immoral behavior. Instead, we must face resolutely within ourselves how depraved we are, how we are all "caught in the act", unable to hide. Yet we need not hide our shame, as did Adam and Eve, but bring ourselves to the Loving Light of the World who will dispel the shamers and blamers in our lives and redeem us with garments of praise and righteousness, no matter how depraved we have been in thought, word, or deed.

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