So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
– Romans 7:21-25
We all want to be the hero of our own story. The hero courageously fights against villains to protect the vulnerable. He stands up for his principles. The hero is always good, his anger always righteous. The hero is consistently honest, diligent, generous, patient, wise, strong and kind. Being a hero is a wonderful thing.
There’s only one problem: none of us is that kind of hero.
The most patient person among us may occasionally snap at his parents, spouse or children. The bravest person among us may occasionally face situations that paralyze her with fear. The most scrupulously honest people may occasionally, in the heat of the moment, exaggerate or leave a misconception uncorrected. And so on. None of us perfectly embody all of the traits that comprise virtue. We all want to do good, we all want to be good, but each and every one of us must face our failure to live up to our own standards.
As far as I can tell, this is a uniquely human problem. My poodle has zero anguish over his failure to sit on command. He feels no regret about eating a fallen piece of fruit even though I told him to leave it alone. Through training, I can shape his desires to fit my lifestyle, but fundamentally he does precisely what he wants to do without agonizing or chagrin, whether it is promptly obeying my command to lay down, utterly ignoring my command to fetch or eagerly sniffing another dog’s hindquarters. Humans are uniquely capable of aspiring to moral standards we don’t meet.
There is a term for this failure to do what we know to be right and this persistence in doing what we know to be wrong: sin. And despite sin’s having become unfashionable, we all know in our heart of hearts that it is part of our lives, that we can’t will ourselves into being the heroes we want to be. Oh, we try to soften the blow by telling ourselves that we aren’t sinful, just human. Or that we aren’t that bad, after all – at least, not as bad as Republicans or Democrats or White supremacists or Islamic terrorists or your bogeyman of choice. We learn mantras and self-affirmations and tell ourselves that fixating on our harmful actions and impure motives is unhealthy. But the reality of sin remains, and the fact that it seems universal and inescapable doesn’t make it any less pathological.
Thankfully, our sin problem has a solution: Christ. Did you know that Christ wants to fix your sin problem? He wants to show you God’s forgiveness for your past sins. Even more, he wants to show you a new, righteous way of living, where compassion, patience, justice, integrity and holiness are as natural as breathing. He wants to welcome you into the revolutionary reality of the Kingdom of Heaven – not in some distant life after death, but now, today. Are you ready?
I dunno, Adria. Our dog, Austin, seems to have pretty intense guilt and shame all the time. 🙂
My *dog* is holier than thine? Low, Micah. That’s low.
Do children have an immaturity problem? Do they behave better if one makes them feel guilty? Sometimes, but they remain immature.
Could we cure them of immaturity? Sometimes they might wish we could… but really they need to grow up, which is a time-intensive process which can’t be hurried much. Would we want them to remain immature all their lives?
Isn’t this a better analogy?
It’s certainly not my job to make anyone feel guilty – the Light of Christ will do that, if we but attend to it. But there are many who, rather than face the unpleasant fact of their sinfulness, will close their ears to the voice of God. That’s a lot more serious a problem than mere spiritual immaturity.
Many people are more inclined to believe in a portrayal of God as judging and condemning them.
Anthony Bloom listed fear of being judged as one of the most common reasons why people were reluctant to pray rather than eager. “Come to Me and I will make you feel truly awful;” well, I’m sure God is a better psychologist than that — better than us, certainly! Many moves ahead of me, I’ve found.
Human parents nag, and children typically close their ears to it, so well as they can. And that can lead to ears closed to most everything. I don’t think God nags.
God can and does call my attention to unpleasant facts; but the fact that I’m not always the person I’d like — or even always a person I can like — seems best interpreted, not as “sinfulness” so much as “not there yet.” God’s still working on us!
The main reason modern Americans close their ears to God…? “Go away, Science says I’d have to be crazy to believe in You.” More a state of confusion than of sin…
And more common than closed ears: ears focused in useless directions.
I think you must be working with a different definition of sinfulness. I literally mean by it “the ways we fall short of the glory of God.”
OF COURSE God is still working on us, as long as we will let him work. The reason he NEEDS to work on us is that we are inclined to be selfish, self-serving and self-centered, i.e., sinful. What do you mean by the word?
You’re asking me to define your category, which is bound to take me out of my jurisdiction! But it is a human concept we apply to regrettable acts, inconvenient feelings, “thoughts that should not be thunk,” just plain human wrong-headedness, bad-attitude, lovelessness.
Things like that happen & we blame ourselves, or God, or whoever made the last clueless contribution to the current fuss. Or the first. The blame involved is highly motivating, but generally doesn’t steer well.
My impression is that God’s view of all that _is_ that it’s “spiritual immaturity and its consequences.” God can use the word “sin”, trying to talk to us in our babytalk; but God has a longer perspective than people do.
We get heedless about low doorways and eventually we notice that our head hurts too much & too often. We could ask The Big Guy why that is; but instead we sit there holding our broken heads trying to figure it out. After awhile of that, then maybe we’ll ask. We might have started there — but that isn’t how it usually happens.
[See http://sneezingflower.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-self-disclosure-of-god-and-me-i.html ?]