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I checked the label on one of the new shirts that my wife bought for me. ‘Relaxed Fit’, it read, above the washing instructions. Admittedly it did feel good, and I have no complaints, but I wonder if my doctor would have used that same ‘complement’ about my waistline. It reminded me of a medical business I passed the other day called ‘Serene Dental’. I had to laugh. It would certainly not be the name of the dental surgery that I was unfortunate enough to visit as a boy.
The Book warns us about disguising our spiritual flaws and failings with flattery. In Jeremiah’s day, the prophets were so good at using words like ‘Relaxed Fit’, and so good at calling a root-canal a gum-massage, that God lodged a formal complaint against them in these words: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”
The apostle Paul was not one to use such flattery. In one of his letters he describes our fallen human condition using concepts such as: depraved, enslaved, condemned, lost, alienated, ‘without hope and without God in the world’. Admittedly he’s brutal. But therein lies our hope; for though he is brutal, he is brutally honest. Which means that when he speaks of forgiveness and justification and acceptance and peace and friendship with God, there is no embellishment nor exaggeration, but the right to take the words for all their worth.
DM 6th March 2018