Read Isaiah 1:13-17
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.
14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.
16 Wash yourselves and be clean!
Get your sins out of my sight.
Give up your evil ways.
17 Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows. (NLT)
Human wickedness is plain enough and is explained by our going astray from the God who is the source of all goodness and truth. If we give up on God then we will likely do bad things in time. Our own worst instincts will take over.
Yet what is less explicable is how those who claim to have faith, who claim to be well educated and cultured, also go badly off the rails. It has been said that those who oversaw or at least turned a blind eye to the Holocaust in the Second World War were those who were not only highly educated and cultured but also claimed some sort of faith. Listening to Mozart at night, gassing children by day. Singing the hymns of Luther on Sunday and slaughtering Jews on Monday.
Closer to home, a minister can lead worship on Sunday and yet rape a girl in that same church building during the week. A priest can minister to a faithful couple one day and abuse their son the next day. The appearance of faith does not always reflect the reality of faith.
Our displays of so-called religion, our professions of faith, are not always carried out in day-to-day life. As Isaiah reminds us, this is not just recent history. It has always been easier to go through the motions than live out our beliefs. Human hypocrisy is deeply embedded in our condition. Or to put it more bluntly, sin is terribly woven into our humanity.
Mere religion won’t begin to solve the problem. Only a Saviour can do that.
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