We seem all too ready to believe the worst about someone and are all too eager to dismiss any favorable reports.
A case in point is found in yet another forward in my e-mail inbox. This one was introduced with the incendiary (to me) headline "Don't buy Pepsi."
Since my current lunchtime beverage is Wild Cherry Pepsi and I restrict myself to a single can of soda each day, I was loathe to stop drinking it unless there was a very good reason to do so. I read the message.
The gist of it was that Pepsi had deliberately eliminated the words "One nation under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance on their recently released patriotic cans.
Not so fast.
As it happens, the e-mail was copied from a similar email advocating a boycott against Dr. Pepper. They just substituted the word Pepsi for Dr. Pepper. Neither charge was altogether true, although Dr. Pepper did present a patriotic can following the September 11, 2001, attacks, depicting a view of the Statue of Liberty and the words, "One nation ... indivisible."
Responding to the hue and cry that they had dismissed God from the Pledge, they explained in an online letter Feb. 5, 2002, "Due to space limitations on the can, only a few of the 31 words from the Pledge of Allegiance could be used. The available area for graphics limited the amount of verbiage that could be included on the can. Of the 31 words in the Pledge of Allegiance, only three were included. More than 90 percent were not included."
I guess it's true. You can't believe everything you see on the Internet.
In recent weeks another politician urged us not to jump to conclusions when news that a compromising photo of him was circulating through cyberspace. He claimed that his account had been hacked and that he was a hapless victim, not an exhibitionist.
Not so fast.
Apparently, he is a bit of an exhibitionist, and quite an accomplished liar at that. I suppose we'll find out over the next several weeks just how much of an exhibitionist he is, and whether or not he is guilty of other "sins of the flesh."
Perhaps we're right to assume the worst and to dismiss any favorable reports as unrealistic fantasies at best, at least as far as politicians go. No matter the party affiliation, it seems men of power have an altogether, all-too-common, Achilles heel.
It's safe to say that no one's life can bear too much scrutiny. One man's sin is another man's pleasure (to paraphrase a familiar saying), and I'm sure there is enough dirt in my life to obscure any small amount of good I may have ever done. Our situation is so dire that Scripture warns us that even our righteous acts are as filthy rags in Isaiah 64:6.
So, should any of this matter? Does it matter that this politician not only lies but sends out explicit photos of his unmentionables? He's not the first politician, by any stretch of the imagination, to abuse the public trust and I dare say, he won't be the last.
We've been winking at our favorite celebrities' lapses -- whether on stage, screen or on the national political scene -- for so long that the once petty sins have been eclipsed by serious moral failures. Accusations run the gamut from using public funds to pay for private trysts, campaign funds to silence former lovers, and children born of the passions of adultery ... ad nauseam. The expectation seems to be that since we winked earlier, we should just keep on winking, regardless of the offense.
Sin is a soul sickness, a fatal disease that kills. Long before the afflicted (that's you and me) will feel long term consequences of our sin-soaked existence in our dying, our hearts have become hardened against the pain our sins have afflicted on ourselves and others and our minds have found ever more interesting ways to self-justify our actions. We are so far gone, we don't even realize that we've died, inside.
Sage advice, attributed to Will Rogers, is applicable to nearly every sin situation: "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."
Hope is evident when we finally realize that we're in a hole and there is Someone ready and willing to take our hands and pull us out of that hole, if we will simply let go of the shovel. But what hope is there for someone who no longer sees the ever-deepening hole -- who no longer sees the sin or its consequence -- because all along, no matter how egregious his sin, everyone offered a glad hand along with that conspiratorial wink?
"Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.'" Hebrews 4:7 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.