Tag Archives: sin

Looking for answers in a world of tragedy and hatred

Every generation looks at the news and changing values around them and believes the end must be coming soon.  Each generation believes things are getting worse and it’s only a matter of time.  The early Christians felt there could be no greater evils than what they faced:  a corrupt Roman rule that sought to torture and execute them, feed them to lions for sport and drive them underground.  Every generation believes that things are so bad, Jesus must be coming back soon.

We see awful stories in the news that shock and outrage us.  School shootings, terrorist bombings, domestic violence, acts of discrimination and hatred, families torn apart and treating each other horribly.  We look from afar and judge and wonder how people could act such a way.

The Bible discusses the sinful condition of humans repeatedly.  It began with the original sin that ended utopia in Eden and brought brokenness to the world.  It continued with religious people that ridiculed, imprisoned and killed  God’s prophets, even mocking, torturing and killing the Son of God who brought the hopeful message of the Kingdom of God.  History has seen horrible dictators, genocide, murder, terrorism and evils that shock and sicken us.  In the Bible, Paul wrote the following phrases in his letter to the Romans:

“all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23)

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Rom 7:18)

Writing about sinful people he said they will “invent ways of doing evil” (Rom 1:30)

It’s not all bad news.  Because we are made in God’s own image and likeness humans have the capacity to do good, but because of our sin we have the capacity to do evil.  Paul writes extensively about this dichotomy throughout Romans.  In chapter 7 he notes that he knows the good he should do and the evil he should avoid, but the good and evil inside him constantly do battle.

We all have that battle within us.  When things are going well, most of the time the good side wins.  We may fall into some sinful habits here and there but keep them in check.  Other times, we give into our darker side and allow ourselves to be tempted into sin.  At some points in our lives – and for some people most of their lives – we can become broken, worn out, depressed and decay deeper into sin.

We see awful stories in the news that shock and outrage us.  School shootings, terrorist bombings, domestic violence, acts of discrimination and hatred, families torn apart and treating each other horribly.  We look from afar and judge and wonder how people could act such a way.

And then we look in the mirror.  And we contemplate the hatred we have in our heart for someone that hurt us, the strained relationship with a person we’ve refused to speak to for a long time, the habit that no one knows about and we keep hidden in a dark place, or whatever sin is weighing heavily on our hearts.

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At the end of Romans chapter 7 Paul writes “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Now this is coming from a man who was an Apostle of the early church, who wrote most of the letters of the New Testament and did many great things for God.  To some people, this kind of writing dwells too much on the negative.  Many people just want to talk about happy thoughts and focus on the good things that humans do and are capable of.  And we should do that.  We should celebrate great human achievement, acts of love and kindness and unselfish behavior.  It’s true there is enough bad news out there, we need more positivity.

At the same time, when tragedy strikes or when we have those moments where we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom or are in a bad way, we need to realize the struggle within us.

Some would say we are getting more sinful each generation as morals change.  There are also ways that our morals improve by shedding off ignorant or judgmental attitudes of the past.  But at the same time, stories come along that remind us that for all of our progress, people are still broken and sinful people.

We will never conquer this ourselves.  We will never see peace, healing and love on our own.  Yes, humans are capable of it because of the imprint of God He’s put in us.  But real change comes from real change of heart, a change that only God can bring. In Romans chapter 7, Paul asked “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  And then he answered his own question:

“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

People can put their faith, energy and hope in things like political candidates or parties, in social justice initiatives, in communities bound together by common interests and even deep love for each other…and those can be good things but ultimately lacking full potential without the answer Paul points us to:

“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

We know that we will never see perfection this side of heaven.  There will always be sin, there will always be tragedy, there will always be people using their free will to commit crimes and horrible acts.  And if we’re honest with ourselves we realize we will always struggle with that same area of sin, we’ll gossip about someone behind their back from time to time, we’ll say something we don’t really mean, we’ll hurt people we love with our words or actions.  We aren’t perfect.  At the same time, we can do good.  We can help people, we can stand for truth and justice and help our communities.

We can do good things because our Creator made us in His image and likeness.  We can access the love and charity in our hearts and do good, even great things.  To truly combat evil, we’ll need more than what we’re able to achieve ourselves.  We’ll need a powerful ally.

“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”


Get Real – Sin is messy

Remember the pastor who had to plan out how to not give me a fake hug?   Early on in the church plant, he started a weekly discipleship and accountability meeting with the staff.  That sounds great doesn’t it?  That’s definitely what church leaders should be doing.  So in our first session, he says we need to confess our sins to each other and hold each other accountable.  So around the room we go, each sharing about lust, anger issues, marital problems, and other sins we were dealing with.  He, of course, went last.  At this point, you may realize that this was a fishing expedition to find out the dirt on his staff and what skeletons are hiding in our closets, with no intention of sharing something real of his own.  You would be right.  So for his turn, he sat up straight and tall and confessed to us:  “I just don’t spend enough time thinking about Jesus.”

 Really? 

I’ve sat in countless services where a pastor has attempted to relate to the congregation by revealing some flaw or struggle or sin so they can appear to be real and not sitting in an ivory tower.  And some of them are genuine and transparent.  Others, not so much.  I heard one pastor talk about his addiction to diet coke.  Wow, someone call Dr. Drew and get this guy in rehab.  You’ll hear a pastor share a cute little story about a disagreement with their spouse that is the equivalent of a tickle fight, so that we can know their marriage isn’t perfect.

The Bible is full of stories that are messy and full of sin.  It doesn’t hide anyone’s faults.  Great leaders who were used for God’s purpose fell victim to horrible moral failures.  There’s a long list of people who would never pass the interviews of our Pastoral Search Committees today.  I think one of the reasons for many devastating moral failures is that too many pastors are afraid to be honest about their struggles with anyone.  And congregations expect their leaders to be perfect and hold them to a high standard, and forget they are human.

Pastors often don’t know who to talk to.  If they open up too much, people will judge them and think they’re not holy enough.  If they don’t share enough, they’re out of touch.  People need to lift up and encourage their pastors and make them feel support.  Deacons and elders and other leaders should be able to hear the confessions of their pastor and be a strong support system, instead of using it against them.  We need to build an environment of grace, where anyone can share their struggles and receive love, encouragement, forgiveness and grace in return.

It’s not just pastors.  Christians have battled this syndrome forever:  wearing a mask to appear one way to others, while hiding so many scars.  Yet we tell people, especially non-Christians, that God accepts us for who we are, and we’re all just broken people who are in need of God’s grace.  The more we hide our struggles, we’re left alone to feel guilty and continue down the path of temptation.  Confession frees us, gets the sin out in the open, allows others we trust to pray for us and give us accountability.

We’re not going to start standing up at the church pot luck and announce our worst sins to everyone.  But we do need to find trusted brothers and sisters in Christ that we can share with.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  James 5:16

 

 

 

 


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