A lesson from London: Who could stand?

Kari writes:

The British Museum. Four enormous statues of Buddha lined the far wall. They towered, enormous, yet frozen in place. Mere idols. Powerless. I turned the corner to head out, into another gallery, then noticed that Jeff was intrigued by something else, clicking a photo with his phone.

Two tall statues stood on either side of a walkway. Shiny with glaze, standing tall and proud with Asian faces and elaborate Chinese dress. The one on the left held a hefty book, probably 8-10 inches thick, like two or three phonebooks all put together. His face looked severe, judging.

The other statue held a slim booklet, more like a magazine, rolled up into a small cylinder in her hand. The plaque explained that in the first century AD the concept of hell was introduced into China. From where it was unknown. But from that time on it was clearly understood that after death there would be judgment. The severe statue with the thick phone-book type volume was holding the person’s evil deeds. The statue with the magazine rolled up was holding the person’s good deeds.

The statues:

Final judgment statues from the Meng Dynasty in China, housed in the British Museum. Statue on the left holds large book making note of "evil works"; statue on right holds small magazine with record of "good works."

They got that part right.

If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand?
—Psalm 130:3

Where, I wonder, have we lost the reality of guilt? Today guilt is a dirty word, something we’re encouraged to shake off, leave behind, free ourselves from.

But isn’t guilt a critical component of the gospel?

Isn’t guilt the black backdrop that allows the glorious diamond of the gospel to be seen in all its glory?

If I didn’t understand guilt, how could I understand grace?


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