Don’t run with scissors. Play nice. Don’t throw rocks. Eat your vegetables. Don’t talk back! Sin was simple back in kindergarten, and so was expiation of that sin. Break a rule, you get a whoopin’. Very simple.
By my teenage years we added Don’t Do Drugs. Of course back then, in the Sixties, only the hippies and un-American types did drugs . . .or so I was told.
Becoming a “Church People”
I ran across many kinds of church people as I grew older. Many had an enhanced list of things that were bad — and things that were also bad. This was not ALL church people, but a lot of church people. I remember when I first learned that dancing was a no-no and that things as playing cards, gambling, movies, rock music, and beer greatly displeased God. This was all very disconcerting because at age 18 I liked all that stuff – a lot!
After graduating from college I was swooped up by the grace and mercy of God. I decided that I needed to become one of those church people. In the process, I started to try to differentiate between church offenses, cultural taboos, morals, preferences, bad habits, social gaffs, and what God actually views as SIN. It can get confusing.
I read my Bible daily. I studied the Scriptures and prayed for insight. Mostly, I devoured the words of Jesus Christ. The beauty of God’s love and the antidote for sin was simple. A theme emerges in Scripture, Christ died for our sins, and arose from the dead for that we might have life – FREEDOM.
Meanwhile I sat in Sunday School classes, listened to sermons and at first grew my own long list of what I call church people sins. Then I became flustered as the list got longer and longer. “STOP!” This is not the Gospel. I went from being confused to sad, but after a while I was entertained as I watched church people invent new sins to attack.
Let’s see, I’ve learned that tattoos are sinful, Pokemon, Harry Potter, Smurf — all sinful; long hair on boys and make-up on girls — sinful; multiples piercings, using expletives, listening to secular music — sinful, sinful sinful. (Please do add to the list, I’m sure you’ve heard much of the same.) A person can use the bible to proof-text most any pet peeve or vexation.
A key to dealing successfully with my Sin Addiction has been to unlearn a bunch of that other crarp.
The nuance of sins can be really confusing. I have found it helpful to move away from the church lists and to try to avoid discussing sin preferences and deferences with church people. That’s why I somewhat content to work on just seven sins. Well, not work ON them, but watch Christ work them OUT.
Numero Uno: PRIDE – the excessive embrace of one’s own strength and capability. It will interfere with one’s need to recognize the grace of God. It is ego, the self on the throne and perhaps is the sin from which all others arise.
You’ve heard of the Ten Commandments, right? The first two commandments cut to the heart of the pride issue. You shall have no other gods (including the god of Self) and you shall not make idols.
When we recognized that we are deeply indebted to God we can we humbly bow before Him and loose the shackles of pride. I do not deserve the grace and mercy of God, but He pours Himself into my soul anyway. He comes to me, a sin addict and says, “You’re mine, I have paid for you. Come on, let’s go have some abundant life!”
ME? He accepts me?
Pride suggests that a person’s success, achievement, and status is their due. “God helps those who help themselves,” right? We are the masters of our own domain! “Anyone who does not do something with their life, well it’s their own danged fault!” We forget that by God’s grace we have the mental capacities to create goals; we lose sight of the fact that God gives us the emotional capacities to endure. Everything is a gift from our Creator, even the adversity that makes us stronger.
Watch out for pride! Don’t forget WHO IS IN CHARGE. Don’t let a “sin list” take over, it happens too easily. Jesus took that sin list to the cross and He offers something far better. Jesus says, you can sum the whole thing up in a statement, love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”