It helps me to think of the Church as being one big “Sinners Anonymous” gathering. We are all sinners, whether we are sinning at the moment or not. It’s who we are. When we admit that we can’t do anything about it and that we need God to get us through the next minute without sinning, we are finally at a point where we can begin to live our lives with some clarity and purpose. We are not left helpless to wallow in our own sinfulness. Sin can be so intoxicating that sometimes we give into it because we want to. It can disguise itself so well that we may not realize how close we are until we are already in it. That’s where God’s eternal grace and forgiveness comes in. Each time we admit our relapse, we just start fresh, learn from our mistakes, and grow in wisdom and strength. Because we all face the same struggle, we can be each other’s strength in weak moments and loving admonishment in moments of weakness.
That’s a great analogy but sin is more than just an addiction. Sin entered the world and permeated the very soul of mankind like radiation from a nuclear bomb. I grew up in the 70s and early 80s towards the end of the cold war. Unlike my parent’s generation, we knew that hiding under our desks or in some backyard reinforced cement hole in the ground was not going to protect us if the enemy dropped a nuclear bomb anywhere near us. If we were lucky enough to live far enough away from the blast zone, we wouldn’t instantly burn to ashes, but the radiation would contaminate the environment and survivors on a molecular level forever mutating whatever lives. The sinfulness that entered the world with the bomb of that first sinful act is like the radiation that forever mutated the soul of mankind.
To think that we could eradicate sinfulness from our hearts by simply trying not to sin is foolish. Only God can make clean what sin has stained and he did that in the Person of Jesus who died on a cross for us to satisfy God’s justice. He rose from the dead unraveling the bonds of sin that restrain us. In the mystery of God’s power and grace, he redeems us and is transforming the very fabric of our souls from sinfulness into holy temples of His Presence. He is in our hearts from the first moment of salvation, but the redeeming and transformation is a lifetime endeavor. God in us is eradicating the old and creating the new every day. Our work is to encourage each other and pick each other up along the way.
I am sinful by nature of my humanity and by looking through the sinfulness of others and reaching out to them as Jesus does with love and grace and without reservation, I hope to show a little of the light Jesus has brought into my heart and life. I’ll have to tear down the righteous walls I’ve put up in the past if I am going to be able to look them in the eyes and embrace them with the love of Jesus. I’m going to risk the accusations of giving in, giving up, letting the world invade my theology, and accepting or supporting what the Bible calls sin because that’s what Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well, with the tax collectors, lepers, insurrectionists and all the other people the “good and religious” people of his day called unclean and unworthy. I am going to answer the call on my heart to love others with a love that is patient and kind; A love that isn’t envious, boastful, proud and that doesn’t dishonor others; A love that is not self-seeking, will not easily anger, and keep no records of wrongs; A love that will not delight in evil and rejoices in the truth. Love that always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres—a love that never fails. At least I’m going to try my best and lean on God’s forgiveness and grace when I fail to love in the way God’s word shows me to love—God first and all others next.