Vinegar is a highly acidic liquid. Milk is a base liquid. When you combine the two, it causes a chemical, neutralization reaction. Almost instantly, the proteins in milk (called casein) lump together. If you planned on drinking the milk you’ll discover it has soured and is no longer palatable. You might end up throwing it out because it is useless as a drink. But, this concoction is not entirely worthless. The combination is an excellent replacement if you want to bake a batch of delicious buttermilk biscuits. What was on the one hand considered awful, ruined and without use can become a vital ingredient in creating something worth eating (if you like biscuits).
We look at people around us who make horrible, awful choices for their lives and shake our heads. In our estimation, their lives are ruined, without merit, useless. We don’t think they can be redeemed or ever change their trajectory. Their sins have become like vinegar. However, if given the right circumstances and encouragement and hope their lives can be restored and become useful.
In the Bible we read the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. We can assume, this was not the first time she had participated in the act and she was well-known in the area. An angry crowd drags this woman (not the man) and throws her down at Jesus’ feet. “This woman is an adulteress and the law says she is to be stoned,” exclaim the Pharisees in the crowd. “What do you say?” Jesus pauses, stoops down and scribbles in the sand, and then says, “Whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” Of course, given those parameters no one could accuse her and the crowd dispersed. Jesus then takes her by the hand and, instead of berating her for her sin, he tells her, “Go and sin no more.”
This woman’s life could have been destroyed by the “vinegar” of her sins but instead her life was changed and we assume she lived a completely new life after her encounter with Christ. Instead of throwing people away because their lives have become curdled and spoiled, we need to embrace them and show them how their lives have value and how they can become useful and new. We aren’t called to be judges; we are called to be healers and restorers of spoiled lives.
Remember–every one of us has been touched with the “vinegar” of sin. Not one of us is unspoiled. All our lives have been curdled by our choices. But, we have been forgiven, redeemed, and have been given the hope that our lives can be used for something good. Let us extend the same redemption and hope to those who are hurting around us who feel their lives are too spoiled to be changed. Let’s make some biscuits instead of throwing out sour milk.
Psalm 95: 8 “Today, if only you would hear his voice, Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness…”
The past week has been very thought provoking for me. I wrote last week, “A Victory for Love?” because I was very passionate about the issue of “rights”–my rights, your rights, everyone’s rights. I must confess, though, the real issue was my unshakeable belief God says homosexuality is a sin. I was feeling very self-righteous but as in every moment we pick on the sins of others, the mirror of God’s word reflects our own sin back on us.
I was reading Hebrews 4 for my devotions and three times in that chapter it makes reference to Psalm 95:8. It is a reference to hearing God’s voice and not hardening our hearts to him. Meribah and Massah are names God gave to Horeb–a place where the grumbling, complaining Israelites tested God by not trusting him for their personal, physical needs. It is the place God came to loathe the generation of Israelites he delivered from Egypt because they had no faith in him and did not listen to his voice.
Every Christian has opportunities every day to hear God’s voice delivered to us through the Holy Spirit. We are convicted of our sin and we are instructed on what we should do. When he speaks to us it is personal and applicable to our lives–not the lives and sins of others. When we refuse to acknowledge our sin and shortcomings, we are hardening our hearts just like the Israelites in Meribah and Massah. We make God angry by our refusal to hear his voice.
I have many sins and I am convicted of my failures every day yet it is more convenient for me to turn my focus to the sins of others and condemn them. How shameful! Jesus told us not to look at the speck in our brother’s eye when we have a plank in our own. Hebrews 4 tells us we will be judged for our own attitudes and sin–not the sin of our neighbor. We don’t have to accept or condone sin because God is the ultimate judge and he wants us to concentrate on our own guilty consciences.
When you hear God’s voice, you have two choices–listen and change or harden your heart and refuse to acknowledge him. We are not responsible for whether anyone else listens and obeys. Our responsibility is to hear God’s voice in our own life, evaluate and change and be an example to other people–not a judge.