But then I sigh, and with a piece of scripture tell them that God bids us do good for evil. And thus I clothe my naked villainy with odd old ends stol'n forth of holy writ, and seem a saint when most I play the devil. —Shakespeare, King Richard III
No matter how you slice it, the 1970s was a pretty embarrassing decade. Big hair, tight pants, disco, and the temporary phase America went through called "streaking." Hey, if you were here, I don't need to remind you. It seemed like every time you turned on the news, someone had taken off their clothes and was running naked through public places.
That's actually one of two common responses people show when sin is exposed in their life. Unable to hide it, some of us just flaunt sin and run with it.
Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)
But others of us try to hide sin behind good works. The "worker" feels the guilt and tries to make himself right... it's called self-righteousness: the counterfeit technique of self-focused behavior modification. It is a course in fig leaf making, really, and "the rules" of religion teach you how to cover your shame. Quit swearing, go to church, pay your taxes, be associated with the upright crowd...
The goal of the "worker" is to look good on the outside, convincing others, self, and hopefully God, that you are really okay on the inside... at least that you are better than the streakers whose sin is so obvious (or maybe the "streaker" is just more honest than the "worker?") Anyway, Paul describes the fate of self-righteous people:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Romans 2:1)
Neither the worker nor the streaker responds correctly to the revelation of his sins because neither of them has the grace of God in mind. Whether you flaunt your sin or try to hide it under good works is really not the issue. God's grace is!
Jesus, I praise You that I can be both honest about my sin and resting in You as the source of my righteousness. Check my heart today. Show me where I flaunt my sin. Show me where I am self-righteous. Replace these fleshly responses with a deep appreciation for all that You have done for me, and then live through me in a way that reflects Your mercy, grace, and love for the world. Amen.