When I was a teenager, I thought the unpardonable sin was having premarital sex. (My parents were quite the strategic Bible teachers, and as I celebrated “Sweet 16 and never been kissed”—closely followed by Sweet 17 and 18—clearly, they also were effective. The night before my wedding, in fact, their bizarre teachings continued when my father told me that birth control pills were merely aspirin held tightly between the knees…)
It wasn’t until I was older—and safely away from my parents’ tutelage—that I began to understand that the unpardonable sin referred to “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.” R.C. Sproul defined “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” quite simply as “desecration of the holy character of God… in a sense, it is the opposite of praise.” That explanation I could mostly understand; when I also was assured that I couldn’t possibly love God and commit this sin, I felt relieved and promptly stopped worrying about committing the “unpardonable sin.”
Until this past Sunday when I committed the unpardonable sin of 2013. I forgot to silence my cell phone in a church.
I also failed to notice that my microphone—which I had used to help lead the singing moments before—was still on.
Both fit nicely in my new purse, by the way.
You probably see where this is going. Unfortunately, I didn’t.
Part way through my pastor’s sermon I realized my mistake—when I (and everyone else) heard my unique text message tone so loudly that my pastor said mid-sentence, “Oooh. Music.”
Embarrassed, I unobtrusively reached in my purse to grab my cell phone so I could silence it—certain that all eyes would be on me—when I noticed that no one, not even the guy sitting right in front of me, was even glancing my way. I was bemused. My phone, pocketed in my purse in the back corner of the church, had been loud enough to be noted by my pastor mid-sermon but its location hadn’t been given away?
Which was when I reflected that my phone had sounded louder than life.
Which was when I realized my microphone might be “on.”
Now even more embarrassed, I unobtrusively peered inside my purse to inspect the microphone, discovered I was correct, and reached in to turn it “off.” Somewhere between mere embarrassment and utter hysteria, I realized no one knew it was me. Whew.
The amplification of my failings through the church’s sound system kept my sin secret (until now, of course).
To be honest, I have often looked with disdain on those individuals who have failed to silence their cell phones in similar situations. By “similar situations,” I mean “cell phones ringing in church services or during school performances.” Let me make it clear: I have never heard someone sound their phone through a speaker system.
As my pastor continued his sermon on “love,” marking his 24th wedding anniversary and preceding the church’s annual marriage retreat scheduled for the next weekend, I tried to focus on his message. But my mind was entertaining Scripture verses—such as Numbers 32:23, “Be sure your sins will find you out,” and Psalm 19:12, “Forgive my secret sins.”
But other than perking up when my pastor asked, “Does anyone here ever not do dumb things?”—the context of which was completely lost on me—and noting that no one, and certainly not me, raised a hand, the message on love was lost on me.
Or was it?
As I look back on my sermon notes, I see that Pastor Max Wilkins demonstrated his four point sermon—love covers, love trusts, love hopes, and love perseveres—in two words, “Oooh. Music.” Just as love covers a multitude of sins, my pastor covered mine. He didn’t dwell on it, try to condemn the culprit, or even ask the congregation to silence our cell phones. He trusted—and hoped—that this “dumb thing” wouldn’t reoccur, and he persevered in giving his sermon. And he did it without getting flustered or seeming put out in any way.
My tendency when hearing a sermon on love and marriage is to consider how I can better love others. But by committing (and amplifying!) what I had considered the “unpardonable sin of 2013”—not silencing my cell phone in church—I got something entirely different. I experienced how truly loved I am by the One who doesn’t do dumb things. Because of His love, I am motivated to better love others—even when they forget to silence their cell phones and other egregious sins. But the greatest lesson I learned Sunday? God loves me, flaws and all.
Message received. 🙂