There has been an awful lot on my mind, recently. So much that it has been difficult to pick something to write on. I suppose I will talk a bit about sin. Sin is a very two sided topic. On the one hand, even the smallest sin, all by itself, is enough for God to righteously send us to hell. On the other hand, God Himself became incarnate in Jesus Christ to bring to us salvation not only from the small sins but indeed from all sins. The path to salvation includes repentance. Repentance must be continuous, but it is always flawed as we are a flawed people. I want to share an anecdote about my process of repentance.
A couple weeks ago, a man came to my house asking if I had any special plans for home improvement projects. I mentioned that I did and what I wanted to do, so he said he’d send someone round to give me an estimate.
A few days later the second person came. It was as if he were selling vacuums. It was plain that every word this man spoke was a lie. He may have said a few true things, but it would only have been a coincidence. This was a full blown “Hard Sell”. He reminded me of a man who once tried to get me to join his pyramid scheme.
Now recently, a family member of mine had very serious health issues (By God’s grace this family member is now perfectly fine). I gave the lying salesman limited details of my relative’s health issues and told him that I had to get going that very moment. This was only partially true. On the one hand, a close family member did indeed have the health issues I mentioned to the liar, but on the other hand, he’d get along just fine without me and did not require any immediate attention. I just said that to get this liar out of my house. It worked. He scampered off. He tried to get me to reschedule, but I continued my deception and said that I didn’t have time for that. So far, no one has called back.
Initially, I was quite proud of myself, for my scheme. But soon, I realized that this was sin. I lied. I had told mostly truth, but I misrepresented its meaning and certainly, there was no need for me to leave my home at that moment as I implied there was. But then an interesting thing happened.
No one else could find any fault in my actions. When I mentioned that I shouldn’t have lied, I kept getting responses like “but he deserved it”, or “You didn’t really lie, you just told him true things in a way that it got him out of your house.” This is interesting. As to the first point, while I am no judge of such things, I would rather expect it’s true that this man deserved to be lied to. He was, after all, doing a lot of lying himself. But I don’t see me as righteous for carrying that out. In the scriptures, Nebuchadnezzar was used as God’s judgment on Judah to punish them for their sins. But that didn’t make Nebuchadnezzar a good guy. He was brutal in his conquest and that was probably a sin, even if God did use it for His own purposes.
As another illustration, I mentioned earlier that all sins are enough to make the sinner deserving of hell. So any sin makes a man worthy of death. We know that all are sinners, so it stands to reason that if I murdered someone, that person would have deserved to die anyway. The problem with this, is that it is not for me to hand out punishment or mercy. If I were to murder someone, I would be a murderer, guilty of an absolutely horrible sin. The fact that the victim’s sin warrants death is irrelevant because I am not God. This is an extremely long way of saying “Two wrongs don’t make a right”.
To the other point, then. It was said that I did not actually lie. Perhaps I am wrong here, but even if everything I said were technically true (which may be the case. I’m pretty good at avoiding outright falsity), the whole point of my communication was to create a non genuine reason to leave my house immediately and not deal with the liar. The fact is, if not for this guy in my house, I would not have left to go see my relative. If anything, I visited my relative because I had someone lying to me, not because my relative needed any support.
So what’s the point of all this? Even if I am right and I sinned, it’s probably a relatively minor sin. Why harp on it? I see this as a place in which I can grow and become a better man. If I sit and dwell on my sins and nothing else, I despair. There is no gain in despair and despondency. But if I see how horrible all my sins are, and see that even my common minor sins are absolutely horrible, I have an opportunity to reflect on Christ. I need to take that opportunity. Christ became incarnate and lived a perfect life, was murdered, and rose from the dead. He “Trampled down death by death”. The more horrible I realize my sin to be, the more glorious and exciting this truth of Christ’s resurrection is.
Another benefit is that if I am complacent in my sins, I do not better myself in any way. If I think it’s OK to lie to people, I won’t strive to be more truthful. This is extremely practical. I have no interest in remaining the same for my whole life. I’ve never really done that and it sounds miserable. I always want to become a better man. I want who I am today to be a better man that I was yesterday. I always want that. Often, I feel shame about silly things I did when I was younger. The shame probably isn’t the best thing to feel, but I’m encouraged that at any given point, I find myself from a year prior to be embarrassingly behind where I am now. That means I’m growing. How could I ever keep becoming better if I did not take an honest assessment of my own sins.
I may talk about my own sin a lot, but that’s not a reason to hate myself. It’s useful to my ambition to become a better man. In reality, I have done a lot of truly wonderful things for many people, by the grace of God. I need to remember that, too, and I even wrote a post about that. But the real growth happens in the desert.