In the film Hotel Rwanda, the main character Paul (played by Don Cheadle) has a disheartening conversation with the news reporter Jack (played by Joaquin Phoenix). Having seen that Jack has shot some footage of the Rwandan conflict, Paul is grateful because he believes it will cause the world to send aid to help their plight. Jack, however, knows that even when the rest of the world sees this footage, aid still will not be sent. In response to Paul’s disbelief, Jack says this:
I think if people see this footage they’ll say, “oh my God that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners.
How could Jack confidently say this? Why wouldn’t the rest of the world be shocked and convicted into sending aid? Jack knows that the world has become so familiar with atrocities and violence that we’ve become numb to it. It doesn’t shock or startle us anymore, so we aren’t moved to do anything about it.
In the Gospel of Luke, the good doctor records for us the severity of Christ’s anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. Contemplating his coming death and the weight of the sins of the world, Luke says this about Jesus:
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. – Luke 22:44
Here is Jesus, preparing to go to the cross to bear the punishment for our sin and tresspasses against God, and he begins to sweat blood (a real medical condition known as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis). Sin is not just some academic idea or trivial thing to the God-man, but it is a very real and incredibly burdensome reality that he himself would bear the penalty for. Christ truly understands – as James would later say – that sin brings death (James 1:15).
On a good day – which is rare – I might shed a single tear in prayer over the weight of my sin. But most days I walk around with some general idea that my sin is grievous, but it doesn’t shock or startle me in the way that it should. Why? Because I’ve become too familiar with it. I sleep and roll around like a pig in my sin every day. My familiarity with my sin leads me to apathy; Christ’s familiarity with righteousness and holiness led him to agony and despair when he contemplated the weight and burden of my sin.
So how should I respond? True power to change can only come in a close proximity to and deep familiarity with the cross of Christ. When I draw near to the cross and remain there, my familiarity with sin decreases and my familiarity with the righteousness of Christ increases. This produces a Godly sorrow that leads to deep conviction, repentance of sins and a love for the Savior.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for my apathy and familiarity with my sin. How much of a wretch am I that I can walk around daily with the weight of my sin and barely pay it any mind, while your holiness causes you to collapse in agony at the very thought of bearing my sin? As the Puritans once prayed, so too do I now pray, “Take me to the cross, and leave me there.”