Have you seen those commercials lately where a woman, whose teeth are blindingly white, is encouraging her friend to check out her whitening product? Her friend responds by taking the ’tissue test’, in which she holds up a very white piece of tissue to compare against her teeth, and is then horrified to find that they fall far short of true white.
Every time I see that commercial I think, “What color are our teeth supposed to be? White enough that people have a hard time not staring at them while talking to us? Sort of off-white? Somewhere in the middle?” Lord knows I’m not against whitening… and after years of drinking tea and coffee I could probably stand to whiten up my teeth a little. But honestly, who made that stark white testing tissue the standard?!
For many things in life, that’s really the question isn’t it? Who sets the standard? And what qualifies them to do so? In today’s society, where there seems to be no absolutes, one might even wonder if there are any standards.
In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis has some interesting things to say about this subject:
“Every one has heard people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: ‘How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?’ – ‘That’s my seat, I was there first’ – ‘Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm’ – Why should you shove in first?’ – ‘Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine’ – ‘Come on, you promised.’ People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.
Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: ‘To hell with your standard.’ Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed.
And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football. But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties don’t matter; but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and there is no such thing as Right and Wrong, what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one?
It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table.”
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp 4-6
C. S. Lewis’ summation above (what he likes to call the Law of Human Nature) agrees with the Bible. In Romans 2:12-15, Paul writes:
“All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”
This verse teaches us that God has placed within each person an inherent knowledge of right and wrong. Our conscience bears witness with this when we do something we know isn’t right, or moral, or ethical. We may set aside our conscience at times, but if we do this habitually we will eventually lose the ability to discern between good and evil. In modern psychology, we would refer to this type of person as a sociopath.
So we see that there is a Standard. And that God, Himself, has set this standard and placed it within all of His creation. He is qualified to do so as our Creator; but even more so, because He Himself is the highest standard of all that is perfect and good. Therefore, His standard can be nothing less than perfection. But we are far from perfect. We cannot meet God’s standard and therefore we fail to qualify as righteous in His sight. We miss the mark, we sin. And the Bible clearly teaches that “the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous”, Psalm 1:5.
But we shouldn’t lose heart, because we are not without hope. We have been given a lifeline. Perhaps the most known scripture in the Bible (aside from Psalm 23) is John 3:16. It is our hope, our assurance, that God has not written us off. Jesus Himself says:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:17-18
Here’s what we can know for certain: 1) There is a Standard; 2) God, our Creator, set the standard; 3) We, His creation, have failed to reach His standard and stand condemned before Him as sinners; 4) We have hope in Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.
Sin cannot be ignored or overlooked, the debt must be paid. Just as in our society, a crime cannot be overlooked and justice must be served. But in His great love God has provided us a way of escape, of acquittal, if you will, from the eternal consequence of sin and judgment: Jesus. Out of His great love for humanity, Jesus took the sin of the world upon Himself and paid this debt for all who will receive it.
Be assured, justice will be served in the end. God’s Standard demands it. The Law demands it. The only question remaining is: Will your sin be found upon Jesus? Or will it be upon you?