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Bothered With Sin

Sin. The word, today, is something people laugh at, something we turn into an adjective describing rich chocolate desserts. We don’t want to be accused of sin, not because the idea instills fear in our hearts, but because it produces in us something between boredom and annoyance. Taking sin seriously is for black-clad Puritans with stifling white collars who can’t possibly ever have had any fun. The whole idea of sin or the existence of an authority with the right to condemn us, is an insult.

And so we have concluded, as a culture, that sin does not apply to us. Even if there are things that are right and wrong, we can get by with only giving it an occasional thought. You can’t seriously expect a person to be good all the time. Honestly now. Let’s be realistic.

If we do pay attention to any of God’s moral rules, then, it is usually with the farsighted understanding that we are utterly incapable of following all these directives. And our inability no longer produces much consternation. Rather than assuming God’s demands are just, we assume God’s commands are unreasonable since we are unable to fulfill them. So a confrontation with moral absolutes does not produce terror, but rather an indignation that righteousness should even be asked of us.

We assume that living, morality and spirituality, ought to be defined by our own terms. We never consented to the order of things described in the Bible. The Israelites may have, but we certainly have not. As Frederick Buechner puts it in The Hungering Dark, “These strange old Scriptures present life as having been ordered in a certain way, with certain laws as inextricably built into it as the law of gravity is built into the physical universe.”

Refusing to subordinate ourselves to God’s laws is like trying to live in defiance of gravity. Christianity claims one of the basic truths of life to be that it cannot, by its very definition, be governed by us. Life is far too deep to be hemmed in by our smallness.

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Jesus’ sacrifice is released when we admit how deeply we are caught in ourselves. He will not reach into our brokenness and make us whole until we claim that brokenness as our own. Partly inherited and partly earned, but nonetheless ours. We can place ourselves in our own universe beyond the reach of any moral obligation, but then we are cut off from the grace we need and the God who loves us. Embracing our sinfulness opens the door to freedom.

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