In case you’re wondering what the first myth was, it concerned the cliché “forgive and forget. ” That little post brought a few more dumb spiritual slogans to mind birthing a miniseries. While “forgive and forget” is profoundly detrimental to the human soul and the image of God, there is a slogan that perhaps grates me more—“God can’t look at sin”.
There’s a sense in which this is true, however, I think this sense hardly ever is intended. Why anyone is zealous to tout this little slogan is beyond me. The image I get is of an effeminate God with a weak stomach who looks at sin the same way a two-year-old “princess” would look at her brother’s freshly found slug. The idea that God responds to sin with a whiny “yucky” is repulsive to me. The reasoning behind this little slogan is usually that because God can’t look on sin, you, being sinful, cannot go to heaven unless you’re first cleansed from your sin. We wouldn’t want to ruin God’s vision after all. It’s not God’s justice, righteousness, wrath, anger, or holiness that’s the issue, but rather a defect in His eyesight.
God’s eyes are not closed. If they were I would really feel sorry for Jesus because he would have bumped into a lot of stuff since this world is full of sin. But he didn’t. Jesus saw sin, exposed sin, and called it what it was, just like His Father.
Where does this foolery hail from? A bad reading of Habakkuk 1:13. Funny that a book so few Christians read should sprout such a widely spread slogan. If they would just read the rest of the verse it would be obvious what the author intended. The God who cannot look at wrong is looking at traitors. Looking here means looking on with approval, with apparent blessing. The essence of being blessed is to have the glorious and gracious face of God shinning down on you (Numbers 6:22-27). For God to look on you is for you to have His favor and for Him to be gracious in His disposition toward you. Habakkuk is lamenting that God seems to be looking at sin—apparently condoning it and blessing it, and that this goes against His very character. God cannot look at sin with approval—this is what Habakkuk is anchoring his lament in.
God sees sin (Gen 6:5); and yet, He turns his face from it (Deuteronomy 32:19-20), but remember the way the imagery is used here. To be blessed is to have God’s face and to be cursed is for His benevolent face to be turned from you. Instead of benevolence, God’s face is directed against sin and sinners in wrath (Psalm 34:15-16). So God’s face is turned away from them in one sense and toward them in another.
If an unregenerate sinner were to appear before God the issue would not be God’s weakness of sight, it would be the sinner’s. God’s eyes would flame with a holy hatred; the sinner would be condemned and undone.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. – Revelation 20:11