God cannot look at sin.
Think about that for a moment:
Is it true?
On what basis would you say it is true?
What does or would that mean if it were true?
What does it mean if it is NOT true?
If you have grown up in the church, you most likely believe this to be true. And, if pressed as to why you would say so, it is likely that it is just one of many things you have been taught that has been passed down from generation to generation. The problem, however, is that for many statements like this, no one publicly challenges it. After we hear it, if we are the sort who spend time pondering the ways of God, we might be inclined to say, “Wait a minute…” but for the most part we also have been trained to believe that it is imperative to believe and continue the party line thinking. I challenge that.
I challenge that, first and foremost, because we have been given minds to think and, as good stewards, we ought to use our minds. As M. L. King was fond of saying, “Rarely do we find [people] who willing engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” But I also challenge it because I believe that God is neither threatened or offended by sincere, honest wrestling and, in fact rewards it. (Think of Habakkuk. And we will get to him in a moment.) But mostly I challenge it because I firmly believe that when Jesus said he would bestow the Spirit of Truth on us, (John 14.17) he actually meant it. And that Spirit of Truth was not given to professionals or the religiously elite but to all.
Here is why some people would say that it is true; because of Habakkuk 1.13 and because it got really dark when Jesus was crucified. The latter is simply an assumption (The Bible makes no commentary on this whatsoever) that is most likely based upon a single text. Habakkuk says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil…” Well, there you go, right?! But if you look at the context (The whole book) Habakkuk is wrestling with the fact that the people of Israel were suffering evil at the hands of people who didn’t like God or the people of Israel…and God didn’t seem to care. And if you read the immediate context (What is right before and after v. 13) Habakkuk is saying to God that little was making sense to him and he thought that God’s eyes were too pure for evil. In other words, he is sincerely asking questions, not making theological statements, and thus he climbs his tower and waits for God to give him an answer to his inquiries. (2.1) And the good news is that God does respond.
However, if you have been ingrained with the notion that God cannot look on evil, this argument will sound empty. I get that. So, I would simply invite you to consider the bigger picture and ask some other questions:
Is sin a legal violation that must be punished or a fatal disease that needs to be cured?
What does it ever mean when God rescues or redeems people?
What does it mean at Advent when we talk about “Immanuel, God with us” as we sing about and reference Jesus?
Finally, what does it mean that Jesus himself acknowledged the trendy name he was picking up as “Friend of sinners”? (Matthew 11.19 “…and they say, ‘Here is a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’)
We always must deal with Jesus. If we say he was divine, then he looked upon a boatload of sin and he never ever once said, “Eww.” In fact, and this is deeply important, the day to day ministry of Jesus was always spent moving toward evil, injustice and sin and not away from it. That is what grace does. It is what Jesus did, and it is what he did by the very will of God who, thankfully, looks at evil and does something about it!