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In a refreshing declaration, an Old Testament writer affirms:
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psa. 32:1).
In stark relief, another biblical writer says:
“He who covers his transgressions shall not prosper…” (Prov. 28:13).
The former passage commends the covering of sin; the latter one condemns such. How are these two inspired oracles to be reconciled?
The solution to this seeming difficulty is quite simple actually. In the former text, a
blessing is pronounced upon him who has his sin covered by means of God’s
forgiveness. On the other hand, the writer in Proverbs is addressing the state of
one who attempts to deal with his evil in a human fashion, rather than seeking
Heaven’s pardon. Generally, man is a rebel. He does not seek to do the will of his Creator, hence, he
is ever involved in wickedness. Jeremiah indicts haughty humanity as follows: “The
heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know
it?” (17:9).
It is hardly a wonder that human beings, stubborn as they are, should seek, in their
vain imaginations, a variety of methods by which they might avoid facing the responsibility for their violations of divine law. In this article, we will review briefly
several of these attempts.
Denial
One method of dealing with evil is simply to deny its reality. Atheism argues that
sin does not exist. Humanists reason: There is no God. If there is no God, there is
no objective code of ethics. If there is no code of ethics, there can be no transgression. Therefore, there is no such thing as sin.
French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre contended that whatever man chooses to do
is right; we can, he affirmed, “never choose evil” (279). And so, the skeptic covers
his sin by contending that it has no basis in reality.
Sigmund Freud characterized it as a mere “illusion.” What a convenient way of
addressing the problem of human evil! It is much like the case of the deluded patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal malignancy. In denial, to his
physician he says: “Do not be concerned, doctor; I am fine. I do not believe in
cancer.”
Concealment
For centuries man has entertained the idea that he can hide his wickedness. If
others do not know, what’s the difference? The difference is: wrong is still wrong, whether others are privy to it or not.
Adam and Eve sought to hide their shame from the Creator, but the effort was for
naught (Gen. 3:8ff). After the battle of Jericho, Achan hid the forbidden spoils of
battle beneath his tent, but God brought the rebellious deed to light (Josh.
7:20-22). A few years back, a country music song, “Slipping Around,” typified the
modern attitude. Concealment can be but a temporary respite. The day will come when that which
has been done in secret will be shouted from the housetops (Lk. 12:3). God is the
revealer of the secrets of men (Rom. 2:16).
Redefinition
Another ploy in dealing with evil is the alteration of vocabulary. Somehow we labor
under the illusion that if we can but find a less emotive term by which to designate our vices, the evil has disappeared.
And so, drunkenness becomes “alcoholism,” adultery is merely an “affair,” sodomy
is “gay,” and pornography is “adult literature.” But, as Shakespeare once noted, “…
a rose by any other name smells as sweet.” And so it is —sin, under any alternate
appellation, is still its vile self.
Rationalization Rationalization is the mental process whereby one justifies his actions by
assigning to them a motive that appears to legitimize the conduct. A student
throws trash on the schoolroom floor and defends his act on the ground that if the
janitor did not have work to do, he would have no job, hence no income with which
to support his family!
King Saul of Israel disobeyed Jehovah and refused to destroy the livestock booty taken from the Amalekites. He excused himself on this basis: “… the people spared
the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice unto Jehovah your God” (1 Sam.
15:15).
America is expert in the art of rationalization. A student cheats on his final exam
and feels no guilt because “others are doing it,” and he “must make the grade
curve.” After all, a future job is at stake. We abort our babies and defend the atrocity on the basis that we must not produce millions of youngsters who will not
have adequate medical and educational facilities.
Rationalization is a soothing lotion for dull conscience.
Legalization
Another way folks cover their sins is to appeal to the license of civil law. The claim
frequently is: “Well, it’s legal, isn’t it?” A man sits in front of his TV and guzzles beer. Whose business is it? It’s not against the law. A woman divorces her
husband because she no longer finds him attractive. Subsequently, she marries a
former boy friend. So what! It’s legal.
What many obviously do not understand is that civil law is human law, and not
infrequently it is in direct violation of the will of God.
Substitution Substitution is the idea one can engage in the vices of his desire, but it really
doesn’t matter, because he does plenty of other things to balance the account.
Good deeds are thought to gloss over base conduct. This is the common
philosophy of many within the Roman Church. One is free to pursue almost any
lifestyle, provided he rattles off the appropriate number of “Hail Marys.”
Conclusion Human attempts to cover disobedience are futile. The wise person will let the Lord
handle the problem —in his appointed way. In the divine plan of redemption, Jesus
Christ becomes the “covering” (“propitiation” —Rom. 3:25) for sin. By virtue of the
Lord’s sacrifice at Calvary, and our reponse to his will, our sins can be covered.

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The Covering of Sin

Aside

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