As I was out for a walk the other day, I saw a mashed, long-dead bird on the road. At first I couldn’t tell what kind of a bird it was, but as I got closer I saw that it was a blue jay. I felt a twinge of sadness.
And that got me thinking about sin.
We feel sadder about seeing a dead blue jay than a dead crow, generally speaking. Why? Because a blue jay is more beautiful than a crow; it doesn’t eat carrion like a crow, and so is a more pleasant bird. It gives us more pleasure than a crow. Therefore, we feel more sorrow when one is disgracefully pasted on a road.
Now, it is one thing for a bird to be hit by a car; it is completely different when a person is hit by a car. It is even worse when it is the fault of a careless driver. Here’s a question for you: Would you feel more anger if you saw a random pedestrian hit by a careless driver, or your best friend or a loved family member? Surely the latter; not because they are intrinsically worth more than the random stranger – who is, after all, someone else’s family member – but because the driver’s carelessness affects and hurts you far more in the latter case.
Let’s continue with this illustration further: What if you were the careless driver, and injured someone crossing the road? Imagine the emotions that would course through your soul in the next few seconds. Now, picture yourself getting out of the car and seeing the person you hit lying on the ground, groaning in pain over a broken leg, bruises and cuts. Would you feel more shame if that person were a total stranger or one of your parents? I think I would feel more shame in the latter case. Why? Perhaps at least partly because I am in a relationship of trust and affection and responsibility with my parents that is greater than my responsibility to a random stranger.
Those three emotions I just described – sorrow, anger, and shame – are what we ought to feel about sin.
When we think of the sins of the billions of people in the world, and when we think of our own sin, we ought to feel sorrow because of how many lives are darkened and made miserable by sin.
When we think of how many people sin has hurt, we ought to feel anger; sin is a hateful, disgusting thing that we ought to hate and despise. I don’t meaning hating sinners; I mean hating the sin that causes divorce and crushes children; the sin that causes people to love money and trample others in pursuit of it; the sin that loves self and ignores and belittles and destroys others.
And when we think about our own sin, how it distances us from God, how our selfishness hurts our families, how our stupid decisions have scarred our lives and the lives of others, and how our sin was the cause of every stab of anguish and excruciating blow in the heart and body of our loving Saviour, we ought to feel shame.
But the cross of Christ is the solution to the sorrow, offense, and shame of sin. We do not feel those emotions only. For God took our sorrow and sin upon Himself in Christ on the cross (Is. 53:4), and gives us full and eternal joy in our salvation (Psalm 16:11). He covers our shame with the blood of His Son (Gen. 3:21), giving us His perfect righteousness (II Cor. 5:21) and letting us stand in His presence with holy confidence (Heb. 4:14-16). God poured out His anger against sin on Christ (Is. 53:10, bringing peace between Himself and us (II Cor. 5:18-19), and now gives us only love and mercy as His adopted children (Jer. 32:40; Gal. 4:4-7; Eph. 2:4).
So yes, feel the sorrow, offense, and shame of sin because of your own sinfulness and because of the brokenness of this world. But also embrace the joy, righteousness, and peace of your salvation in Christ! And look forward to that great day when sin and all its consequences are destroyed, and we live on a new earth with no more sorrow, offensiveness, or shame!