I have been thinking a lot lately about sin. I haven't exactly been thinking about sinning, although that seems to come pretty naturally, but what exactly sin is and how we view it.
It all started in a Bible study that we attend when the subject matter was "holiness". We chatted about the importance of being holy and that we need to set it as our goal. The verse in 1 Peter 1:14-16 was brought up which says "As obedient children, do not be conformed by the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy as I am holy'."
That is pretty "heady" stuff and a fairly tall order. As I started to examine my own life and where I would grade myself in the whole holiness area, I realized that a lot of my thoughts on whether I was holy or not, or sinless if you will, led to a comparison of myself on the "sin chart".
Now, some of you may laugh but I have a friend who was teaching a Sunday School class on the book "With" by Skye Jethani, which I would highly recommend, and they actually created a sin chart. As they discussed this subject, they made an actual chart of greater sin and lesser sin. Somehow, I felt like they were missing the point, but I find myself internally doing the same thing now.
As I think about what it means to be holy, I automatically think of things that I do or don't do. If I am doing good things, then I am holy. If I am not doing bad things, at least compared to some other people I know and if my sin ranks fairly well on chart, then I'm ok.
As I have been wrestling through this and praying that God will let me in on some actual wisdom instead of this ridiculous mindset that I seem to be sucked into, He has been giving me some interesting things to think about.
You know how God is; He uses tidbits of conversations with people, sermons heard and information from authors and knits it all together at times like these. As He has done that for me, this is what He has been telling me:
**That what He really wants the very most of all, is to have a relationship with us. That is His whole motivation for everything He does. Since Adam and Eve made the choice to desire something that they thought was better than that, our relationship with Him was compromised. God then created the law to restore the ability to commune with Him once more and then even sent His own Son to solve the problem for good. All He wants us to do is to keep the relationship working. When we do something that is against all that He stands for and teaches us to do, that relationship is strained. We turn our back on Him and choose something that we think is better than Him. Why would we want to do that? It seems to make perfect sense at the time but it only brings us turmoil because it wrecks the relationship we were created for. That's what sin really is. It's that turning away and choosing some silly "idol" that we think will give us what we want, even if that idol is ourselves.
It doesn't matter where that sin is on the chart, or how it compares to what everyone else is doing. At that point sin is sin is sin is sin. It causes a separation between us and God. It actually shows how futile it really us for us to judge others and to honestly think that we are holier than they are at any level.
Thankfully, He has made it possible for us to mend it in a split second once we confess to it and ask for forgiveness. I have decided that to be holy is not to be perfect and sinless, although that would be helpful, but it is to have the attitude that we want to do our part in keeping the relationship intact. Remember, He never turns His back on us so the ball is pretty much in our court.
**I have also figured out that we need to live holy lives and keep on the track of trying to make good choices and to keep short account of our sin, because those around us are depending on us to. We are all so inter-connected and how we lives out our lives has a huge impact on others. We all have our stories about the negative impact on our own journeys as a result of those in our lives who have made bad decisions. We need to realize the importance of that responsibility.
**The time that we do need to focus on the sin itself is when we need to see exactly what area we keep getting tripped up in. We all know our weak spots and even though we all have behaviors that we can get tricked into thinking that we need to be involved with in order to deal with various aspects of our lives, we need to be smart. We need to specifically identify those areas and do what we need to do to make better choices. Sometimes it comes down to a fork in the road and we consciously have to go the opposite way than what we have always gone before. After time, and much work, the new way becomes the norm. That new way leads to holiness because it doesn't keep causing the problems in that most important relationship.
I know this makes it sounds like all of this is easy, but in a way it is. The hard part comes in spending time in God's word so we know what His instructions even are, listening to the Spirit of God inside of us and heading his gentle or not so gentle conviction, and then not letting our own pride stop us from doing what we know we need to do. So what isn't easy about all of that? Ok, it may not be so easy but God deserves it and He wants it more than anything else. Really, that should be good enough.