Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sin - the Undead

If you think talking about sin is difficult, try doing something about it.

I mean, the reality is, that we all have a pretty great capacity and ability for having "done things which we ought not to have done" and for having "left undone those things which we ought to have done." But most of my Christian friends would much rather not think about that capacity. They'd rather focus on the image of God that we've all been stamped with and be thankful for the good that is within us. And we do have that good within us.

The problem is, oddly enough, when we prefer to focus on the good, somehow the bad that inevitably creeps through makes us feel more ashamed than ever. We sin - we miss the mark - and then we think, "I can't believe I just did that! I'm not THAT kind of person. How embarrassing." And then, because of our disbelief and embarrassment, we tend to try to hide that part of ourselves and only show the pretty parts. When we do that, we might think that we're burying our sin. But there's a real problem with that approach.

It's like in those old scary movies - when you try to bury something that ain't really dead and gone yet, you're just begging for trouble. Because, just when you've had enough time to forget about that thing you've buried, it reaches up from it's untimely grave right through the soft ground and grabs you by the ankle, tripping you up big time. Sin - the undead.

Or, another way of thinking about sin that we try to bury in order to avoid it is to think of it like a seed that falls to the ground. Rather than dying a slow quiet death in the darkness of the dirt, it tends to first put down roots then it germinates and sprouts.
Or, The sin becomes like a weed, that through the cold of winter dies back - not fully but just enought to nestle into the protective layer of soil. While you think it's dying, it's actually storing up energy so that at the first indication of warmer days, the sprouts begin to appear. They are small and almost imperceptible at first, but before you know it, you've got a whole patch of what you thought you had buried. Once it begins to establish itself in this way, it can be very hard to get rid of. You'll get annoyed at its appearance later, but when you try yanking it out you'll discover that only the top, tender part comes out and the roots remain and only produce new growth.

On the other hand, though, I know that just focusing on the sin - wallowing in how we miss the mark again and again - is not the healthiest way to go through life either. When we do that we become so engrossed in the wrong that we do, that we can just barely see the possibility for the right anymore, if we can see it at all. Being myopic about our sin causes us to become short-sighted about everything. We begin to be so cautious with every step we take to the extent that we fear the future, rather than celebrate the possibilities that the future can bring.

So what are we to do? We can't ignore the sin, because it simply won't go away. But by the same token we need not focus on the sin. As with most things in life, there is a way to strike a balance here. It's called change. There's a word that gets used in the Bible, for change of this sort. That word is metanoia (met-ah-noy-ah). Metanoia means "turning." Not like standing in one spot and turning a circle over and over again. The word for that kind of turning is "dizzy." No, this kind of turning is like when you're walking along, heading out the front door, and down the sidewalk and suddenly you remember that you left the stove on. So you literally turn on your heels and begin walking back home again. Interestingly, the pace heading back in the direction of home is usually quickened a bit. There is an intentionality, an intensity that comes with that kind of turning, isn't there?

Just think on this: What is the thing done or left undone in your life right now that has the most capacity for harm? If you're having trouble thinking of something, then find a quiet place to sit and close your eyes, and ask God to open the eyes of your heart to whatever that may be. Listen. I bet you'll hear something, see something that needs to be set to rights. And when you do, an intensity and focus on getting change going will begin to emerge - enough so that you'll want to turn on your heels and start heading in a new direction.

Tomorrow: Got Change?

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