Justification is an interesting word. It’s one of those words that can serve two purposes and seem almost opposite in its meaning. In Christian circles we often throw the word around with little regard for the irony of it all.
There are many in my age group that would say it’s not so with them. Therefore, since I lost the job of speaking for others many years ago, I’ll simply speak for myself.
I sin. There are times in my life when it seems I sin with strong intention. It can be in thought, in words, in actions, and even in the “secret” recesses of my heart. Nevertheless, I sin. When I sin, I usually find there are two bookends that seem to support the sin act. One bookend is confession and repentance. The other one is justification. Not in the biblical sense of justification per se, but in the human sense of trying desperately to justify what was just done, said, or thought. Therein lies the irony.
On one end, and this is most often, I attempt to justify my sin prior to its inception or immediately after in order to rationalize or somehow give myself permission for my actions. There are times I attempt to deceive myself into thinking my sin cannot be found out. Even, at times, contemplating how God will somehow not notice either my planning or execution of the mischief. Even though I know it is wrong, the transgression speaks deep in my heart and I know I’m about to screw up. After all, I’m human and that’s what we humans do – we screw things up and then desperately attempt to rationalize it.
On the other end, I want acquittal. I want to either give myself, however it might be rationalized, permission to sin. If I cannot assuage my conscience or guilt through rationalization then I go to the threshold of the throne, often with not the best motivation. I confess my sin and seek the forgiveness due me through grace. It all seems very sterile at times.
I know God is not deceived the least little bit by my shenanigans. He knows the intent of my heart, he knows the rationalization, and he knows that I know things are not going to go well. Even though I may haphazardly pray that God will keep me from sin, my mind wraps around the sin idea and holds it tight – as though I can’t let go. Oh how wretched I can be.
Father Spirit, I want to take “refuge in the shadow of your wings”. I want to walk away from the scraps on the table of temptation and “feast on the abundance of your house…” and “drink from the river of your delights.” I want to walk in the light as you are light. I don’t want to settle for darkness as temporary as I think it might be. I want to do the right thing. I want to put disobedience aside.
Eternal God, I pray for courage to face my weakness and find the strength to walk in your steadfast love. To know the power of your deliverance for the upright of heart. (Psalm 36)