In chemistry, there are substances that don’t mix well: oil and water, nitroglycerin and impact loads, physicists and engineers. (Well, at least the first two.) When trying to create a combination of two things that don’t mix, though, there is sometimes a solution available (no pun intended). For instance, in the case of oil and water, bringing in a third ingredient (like dish soap) actually allows the two liquids to combine, rather than promptly separating into layers. This “peacemaker” between oil and water is referred to as an “emulsifier” (despite that word sounding like an alien ray-gun or something).
Take a look at the Psalmist’s following description of one aspect of God’s nature:
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness;
No evil dwells with You.
The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all who do iniquity.
Psalms 5:4-5 NASB
Let’s face it: God’s perfect, transcendent, unblemished holiness is fundamentally incompatible with our sinful choices.
This is not an attack on human attempts to do good, nor is it meant to disparage the many examples of kindness and selflessness shown by people around the world on a daily basis (both followers of Jesus who strive to emulate Him, and those who understand the nature of righteousness through the conscience that God gave them).
Instead, I mean for the bolded statement above to elevate the righteous nature of God, which remains unstained and untarnished from eternity to eternity.
Now, somehow God has been able to speak to and communicate with fallen human beings throughout recorded time. In the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:8), it seems that God walked in the garden where Adam and Eve lived. God spoke to many people throughout history, in visions and visits, as well as making His nature at least partially known through His creation (see Romans 1:18-20). And Jesus, despite being God the Son, could walk and talk with sinful human beings.
Still, the holy God and human sin just don’t go together. Yet, we also find this verse in the Bible:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
1 Corinthians 6:19 NASB
Clearly, the recipients of this letter in Corinth were not perfect. Having learned about Jesus, they might have been trying to do good things, but I’m confident that the behavior of those reading Paul’s letter did not live up to the perfection of God. Yet, somehow, God the Spirit (i.e., the Holy Spirit) was present in these people. How can a sinful person and a holy God inhabit the same “space”?
Here, I think that the only way for something so dramatic to happen is through a spiritual “emulsifier”. Sin and righteousness are like oil and water, but the fundamental event that changed our ability to walk with God was the death of Jesus Christ. When He gave up His perfect life, He traded with us: His perfect fellowship with God, in exchange for the punishment that we deserved because of our sinful choices.
If you want to read an inspiring description of this historical achievement, I strongly encourage you to read Romans 5:15-21. (In my opinion, that passage is the kind of statement that should be read loudly for all to hear, with inspiring music in the background, just to attest to the amazing truth that it summarizes.)
If we accept Jesus’ gift, His “imputed” righteousness (that is, the righteousness He lived out, but which we can accept as our own when it comes to restoring our relationship with God) provides the means for the Holy Spirit to live in us. Jesus is the ultimate “emulsifier”, bringing together sinful humankind and the holy God.
If you have struggled to understand how a perfect God could love and restore sinful people (maybe even yourself), I hope that you will learn about Jesus and how He came to bridge that gap. There is no past sin currently separating you and God that Jesus did not already pay for. There is nothing standing between you and being adopted into the family of God, except your choice to accept that gift. You can merge your life back into God’s plan for you, through the sacrifice that Jesus gave (of Himself) for you.
Maybe you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, though, and are seeking to follow Him as your example, out of gratitude and the knowledge that God’s direction is even better for your life than our own limited ideas. If so, I hope that you will seek to have your mind fully engaged with God’s direction, via the “emulsion” that Jesus brings between our will and God’s will (although only our will changes in that scenario).
In addition, I hope that we all understand that, under the imputed righteousness of Jesus, we become part of God’s family, and are no longer considered to be outsiders. Sometimes, followers of Jesus are tempted with the lie that we are somehow “second-class citizens” in the Kingdom of God, or “black sheep” of His family, because of our past sins. Jesus brought us together, and we should appreciate that we are not just separate layers in the same test tube (like oil and water by themselves). Instead, we have been brought fully into this fellowship – one that we can enjoy for eternity.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.