Iniquity is not high on my list of things I wish to write about. However, in my journey through Luke, I found myself considering Judas for the first time. In my previous post about Judas, my thoughts were on the mask he wore. But this time, I found myself caught in the moment where Jesus asks Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?
This is where the word iniquity comes to mind for me. I feel Jesus’ hurt at this moment. Or perhaps He was astonished by the gall of it. A kiss in Jewish culture represents loyalty. It is a covenant of friendship as when Aaron greets Moses with a kiss. As I considered this moment in which Judas makes a mockery of friendship and loyalty, I could not help but think of the depth of deceit in Judas’ heart. To betray Jesus is to betray truth.
Sin and Iniquity are not the same.
Iniquity and sin are often used interchangeably but they do not mean the same thing. Sin or transgression is to disobey one of God’s commandments. All of us have done this at one time or another. Iniquity has a deeper context than merely breaking the law. Iniquity is gross injustice. Another way of looking at it is an utter rejection of the truth. The idea of the mystery of iniquity is compelling because of the nature of gross injustice.
In most of the college composition courses I have taught for the last twenty-five years, I initiate a discussion on what it means to be human. The answers vary from classroom to classroom as students wrestle with the definition. Most end up with the idea of thought, story, and purpose separating what is human from what is animal.
From there we end up looking at the devastation that occurs once one group decides that another isn’t human. And that list is seemingly endless. Slavery and the Holocaust are the two that first spring to the minds of my students. I tend to think of when women were considered property or chattel as another. But truly, the list of gross injustices extends across every tribe and nation as either perpetrator or victim, and sometimes both.
To look at another human as less than human is to commit an iniquity. I believe calling an unborn baby a fetal parasite is iniquitous. But the mystery of iniquity is how it can blind so many at a time. Seventy years have passed since World War II and the memory of the Holocaust is fading as the last survivors die. But there was a time when the perfidy of the concentration camps held the world’s imagination. How could this happen, particularly in a humanistic time that believed that man was improving, growing more moral?
The difference between sin and iniquity is intent, I suspect. Sin is generally selfish. Most of my sins have been an attempt to achieve a happiness or something good outside of God’s plan. But the intent of iniquity is destruction. The purpose of iniquity is to justify the unjustifiable. So plantation owners twisted the Bible in order to justify the enslavement of blacks. Thank goodness abolitionists knew how to read better.
I don’t quite know how to define the moment, but with my ex who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, there came a time where sin turned to iniquity. He is delusional now, destroyed by his own utter rejection of truth. It calls to mind Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now when he leaves sanity behind.
Because that is what happens. Gas chambers are erected, families are broken apart and sold, mass graves are dug while next door dinner is being prepared as usual. When cognitive dissonance becomes normal, then the foggy mystery of iniquity has obscured what is true and good. What is horrific becomes the new normal. I think of the feral child rescued from his home at the age of five. He was so shocked that all little children weren’t kept in boxes like he was. His parents committed a gross injustice.
I have worked with so many men and women who have been sexually abused by family members. This is the kiss of Judas, is it not? To violate the sacred trust between a child and a parent or grandparent? Hollywood, too, has its iniquities. The glorification of violence, the objectification of women, the promotion of promiscuity; these are subtle though their effect is felt in our society.
We like to consider ourselves immune to iniquity, especially in the church. But the church has her list of iniquities just as every other institution has. But we have no excuse, those of us who profess to follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life. A hundred million Christian martyrs in the last hundred years should keep us aware of the destructive intent of iniquity.
The signs of iniquity:
Hearts grow cold.
A lack of compassion reveals a wicked heart.
Language and meaning get twisted.
Words are altered to mean something very different from the original truth intended. The “Shout your abortion” movement comes to mind for me, as if we should celebrate a merciless killing. When did the word abortion become something good?
Things are more important than people.
Make no mistake. Genocides, slavery, and wars are most often based on greed. It is the sin of covetousness turned iniquitous.
Nothing is sacred.
When life is stripped of its sanctity, every aspect of a culture becomes debased.
I don’t write this to discourage anyone. Really, I want to call us to arms. The truth matters and it isn’t something you will find externally. Truth is the person of Jesus Christ. This is a mystery for those who don’t know Him. But if you do, your compass is not found in your society or even maybe your church. Study scripture to know about Him, and worship Him to know Him. It is the personal revelation of Jesus Christ to the individual which has resulted in more victory over iniquity than anything else. Ask Martin Luther King, Jr. Or Wilbur Wilberforce. Or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And the list goes on. Will your name be on it?
I was asked recently which Bible was my favorite. These are the ones I keep near me.
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