Getting Away with Sin and COVID
JANUARY 4, 2023
I’m writing this letter to you from home . . . with COVID and quarantined.
I didn’t even know I had it. We were with some friends who tested positive, and someone suggested that my wife Anna and I get tested. We did, and both of us tested positive. I talked to Buddy Greene yesterday, and he said that he and his wife Vickie were the only people they knew who had not yet gotten it. So, I’m not writing this to complain since many of you have probably had COVID, too.
While I haven’t had any symptoms, Anna has been quite sick. (She’s a lot better now.) I told her it’s because I’m more spiritual than she is, and Jesus likes me better than he likes her. The angels can’t stop laughing. The truth is that, if the world were fair, I would be in the hospital, and Anna would be asymptomatic.
I’ve given that a lot of thought. I have no idea why I’m so well when I shouldn’t be. Sometimes you’re the bug, and sometimes you’re the windshield. “I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).
That reminds me of my late friend, Art DeMoss. Whenever someone asked him how he was doing, Art always answered, “a lot better than I deserve.” While that has become a sort of standard reply from Christians all over, Art was the first one I ever heard say that. At that time, I remember thinking, “Man, that is so true. If I got what I deserved, I would be poor, homeless, sick, and probably dead.”
(If you don’t think that’s true, you shouldn’t read any further. When you get to heaven, they will have a soundproof mansion surrounded by high walls waiting just for you, so you can think you’re the only one there. Then, gradually, they will give you a peek at others and slowly break the news. Once you’re ready, one of the angels will say, “We would have given you a rundown shack, but we were overruled.” So, until then, live the dream, and feel free to stop reading.)
Let’s talk about God’s justice. There are some things we believe about it that may not be true. The Bible says that vengeance is God’s (Deuteronomy 32:34). Paul says, quoting that passage, that we should leave justice to God because God will bring justice and do it better and more thoroughly than we ever could (Romans 12:16). So, it is true that God is a God of justice. In Revelation, John describes those killed for their witness to Christ: “They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer . . .” (Revelation 6:10-11). In other words, wait and watch because God is a God of justice, and he will balance all the books. The Bible clearly teaches that God hates injustice. It’s my understanding that “tort law” redresses grievances and seeks to bring justice to make things right. God practices, as it were, tort law on steroids. One of God’s attributes is justice.
I’m good with that until I start thinking in specifics . . . the main specific being me. I want God to be a God of justice, but frankly, if that’s all he is, then I don’t have a prayer. I honestly want justice (kind of), but what I really want is mercy. And that, of course, is what the Christian faith is all about. It’s about justice and mercy. On the cross, those two dancers—that hardly ever dance together—joined hands and danced to the music of joy. Justice was satisfied, and mercy was free. John writes, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). Paul adds his voice, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
There are so many places where the Christian faith doesn’t make sense. Paul even called it “God’s foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:25). That’s true with COVID and, in a far greater sense, with our failures and sins. Anna is careful about what she eats, takes vitamins, and lives a healthy lifestyle. I smoke a pipe, eat red meat, have never met a cookie I didn’t like, and think that vitamins are good . . . for the vitamin companies. When COVID hit, I should have paid the price and ended up terribly sick. And Anna should have been COVID-free or at least symptom-free. What’s with that?
Just so, the Kingdom of God isn’t just peopled with children (Jesus says in Matthew 19:14, “For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven”). It is peopled with failures, sinners, drunks, addicts, and misfits. Those were the people Jesus loved and he was accused of befriending. It just doesn’t seem right. That certainly makes no more sense than my being asymptomatic.
“You think you’ll get away with your sin, but you won’t,” the preacher said, and it scared me spitless. Frankly, I already knew that, but I really didn’t want to be reminded. There is a long list of sins I was hoping to hide and for which I suffer no consequences. But deep down, I knew that (as someone has said), “Satan says, ‘Take what you want . . . and pay for it!’” So, I would probably pay the price in my life and reap the whirlwind. If I “lucked out,” and that didn’t happen, there was a holy and sovereign God before whom I would eventually stand. And everybody knows that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
That’s when Jesus came.
You got away with it!
I took it for you! All of it.
What does that mean?
It means that you got away with it!
Does that mean I’ll never have to pay the price for my sin?
Yes, I paid it for you.
Does that mean you won’t ever bring it up again?
Yes, I’ll never bring it up again. You’re free and forgiven. It’s as if it never happened.
You would think after that kind of conversation (and I have it regularly), recognizing a great deal and knowing I would get away with it, I would go out and joyfully commit more sins. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I found that my heart was drawn to him, and there was no one in the universe I wanted to please more. I want to say that I have become a spiritual giant, but you know that isn’t true. There are times when—God help me—my sin is first-degree because I know I can get away with it. That is sinful, too, and each time, I return to the same conversation, often with tears. And each time, I’m welcomed with his love and forgiveness. I think I’m getting better because I got away with it. And not only that, better because I know he’ll love me again and again even when I don’t get better. It’s called mercy!
There isn’t any such thing as a free lunch, right? Wrong. So, when you’re invited to a free lunch, don’t turn it down. That’s how people go hungry. And paying for your own lunch can be expensive. Winston Churchill was right when he said there was nothing more exhilarating in life than being shot at with no result. That applies to COVID and my sins. In both cases, I didn’t get what I deserved. So there.
It’s January and time for New Year’s resolutions. If you make them and don’t keep them, remember what I just told you.
He asked me to remind you.