I’ve often said that the Church has this weird preoccupation with sin. I don’t mean that the Church should ignore sin or be afraid to talk about it. What I mean is that the Church treats sin like the boogie man. Desperately trying to find where it’s lurking, attempting to uncover it’s mysterious presence. Frantically wracking our brains to decipher if this activity is sinful or if this endeavor is holy. What we create by doing so is not a people who are set apart from the world, but neurotic saints who are afraid to do anything so they remain stunted unsure of who they really are. Martin Luther called us “cows staring at a new gate.” Our inner dialogue goes something like, “Can I really go through it? Is this really open? Am I really free? No it can’t be…this must be a trap.”
For all of our focus on sin, we’ve left people powerless to find victory over it and without any assurance that they’re actually forgiven for it. There is very little absolution in the Church…sure there is plenty of talk about forgiveness of sins in general but there remains a serious vacuum of the specific promise given to the sinner, “you are forgiven”…or “I forgive you on account of Christ.”
Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Paul told the Romans that it was impossible for the regenerated, baptized saint to go on sinning that grace might abound (Romans 6:1-4). Too often these passages are used as a weapon to guilt Christians into “repentance” and “obedience”…to shape up or ship out. But I don’t think that what’s being communicated here. The Christian has been given the very life and nature of Christ…his victory, his obedience, his righteousness. It’s this nature that becomes, for the Christian, a new reality, the truest thing about us…”if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17). Our old sin nature (the old Adam) no longer defines us…it still has a presence but he’s dead. Any preoccupation with sin (whether it’s giving into it’s demands or focusing on it instead of Christ), is an affront to the cross and a failure to recognize who we truly are in Christ. Like people who suffer with Stockholm’s Syndrome we can easily fall victim to the deception that we’re still under sin’s power, and that we’re not really free(1). But Jesus says something very different…”whom the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36). We’re no longer slaves (to sin) we’re blood bought, adopted sons and daughters who no longer have to live under sin’s tyranny, which frees us to live our lives with confident joy, not an unhealthy fear that has us looking over a shoulder wondering if the boogie man is going to pounce. We needn’t fear my friends, for Jesus pounced first and drove a spike right through his heart. Herein, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom. 8:37), for the battle was won before it even started.
(1) – Steve Paulson, Lutheran Theology, T&T Clark, 2011
Photo Credit – Martin Yee