A mother, in the first frame of the cartoon strip, asked her teenage son to go grocery shopping with her. He immediately noticed that she had split the back seam of her slacks, but he didn’t say a word. The remaining frames showed her bending and moving through the exercise of buying groceries, putting them in the car, and unloading them. He kept noticing her split seam but kept his mouth closed. Finally, when they were home and the task was complete, he told her about her pants.
If you didn’t see the cartoon, you can imagine her reaction. She nearly jumped off the page and shrieked, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to embarrass you,” he replied.
A few weeks later, someone said to me, “I sometimes don’t want to read the Bible. I know that I should, but it keeps showing me what is wrong with me. Then again, I guess it is better to know now and be changed than to act like a jerk the rest of my life and then find out.”
We laughed at our human nature and I told her about the cartoon. It wasn’t too difficult to relate to that mother’s feelings. We also would want to be told about a split seam - before we went out in public.
But we also agreed that when it comes to our behavior, or morals, or even our attitudes, most of us really don’t want someone pointing out our wrongs. It can be humbling, wound our ego, or make us feel inadequate. It would seem that ignorance is bliss, at least if knowledge is painful.
The Bible says that Scripture is sharp, like a two-sided sword, and divides our soul and spirit, exposing the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). No wonder reading Scripture can be painful; however, Jesus said something very interesting about truth - He said “If you know the truth, the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
As for the lady in the cartoon, the truth, up front, would have taken her to her closet or the sewing machine and saved her the embarrassment of spending half a day with her pants ripped; but such a minor detail compared to the truth God conveys in His Word. That truth, even though it hurts, sets us free from a far greater embarrassment.
First He says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” No one measures up to His perfect standard of holiness. That wounds our ego.
Secondly, He says that He loves us, “even while we were still sinners...” Imagine doing some great harm but the one that should retaliate forgives and accepts you instead? That is humbling.
Thirdly, He says “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but by His mercy He saves us...” The good things we might do in an effort to earn the favor of God do not even count. We feel inadequate before Him - simply because we are inadequate.
Sin keeps people from knowing and enjoying God. He sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for sin so those who believe will not have to pay it themselves. He offers forgiveness and new life - in order that “...we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
He wants to hurt us with truth now so we will not be embarrassed and ashamed later... but also gives us the privilege of choosing when to be humbled - now or when we stand before Him.