A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, February 27, 2012

We Are Not Mistakers-- We Are Sinners

I'm not OK and you're not OK. There is something wrong with us. Yes, it is true that we human beings have been made in the image of God, but that image is distorted. We are not what we should be. For awhile now it has been fashionable not to use the word "sin" too much. We don't sin anymore. We make mistakes. Viewing my shortcomings as mistakes sounds less ominous, and using such verbiage allows me to believe that the problem with me is not me; it's a few bad decisions I make here and there, as if those decisions really do not indicate the problem with me.

Then into our mistake veneered lives comes Lent, and we must face the truth about ourselves-- we are sinners. The house of our lives doesn't only need a little paint here and some new moldings there... anything less than renovation is insufficient. In Jesus Christ God wants to do a new work in us that is transformative in character. The work needed is so extensive only God can do it. As I heard someone say years ago, "If I'm OK and you're OK, why did Jesus need to go to the cross?"

I realize that there are some preachers out there who spend so much time in their sermons talking about the bad news of our sin, that they never seem to get around to the good news. Such a lopsided proclamation of the gospel leads only to despair and its own kind of legalism. But it is not a better thing when some other preachers spend so much time talking about the good news that one has no idea what the bad news is or if any news about the human condition is bad at all. Indeed, it's only until we understand the bad news about ourselves that the true wonder of the good news can come into focus. Once we hear the bad news about ourselves we can receive with joy the great news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

We can celebrate that God has freed us once we realize that our situation, our prison of sin, is of such that only God can free us. The cross was not an accident; it was not, in the words of the late John Howard Yoder, a hurdle on the way to the Kingdom... the cross of Jesus Christ is God's kingdom come.

We cannot have Easter without Good Friday. The truth of the depth of God's love for us cannot be understood nor embraced in all of its wonder and mystery until we face the truth about ourselves.

We are not OK... We are not "mistakers"... we are sinners.


Steven Manskar said...

Thank you Allan!

I am increasingly troubled by our United Methodist trepidation when it comes to acknowledging the problem of sin. In the worship service I attended yesterday (the First Sunday in Lent) the congregation was invited to "confess our weaknesses." I almost got up and left. We cannot fully realize the power of grace when we deny the power of sin at work in us and in the world.

Also, we cannot be truly Wesleyan if we refuse to acknowledge and confront the reality and devastating power of sin in us and in the world.

Thank you for this important and powerful word for us.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Thanks, Steve. I did speak about sin in my sermon on Sunday.

PamBG said...

The problem with narcissists is that they don't know they are narcissists. Tell everyone in the world that they are narcissists and only the non-narcissists will come away feeling guilty for being narcissistic.

My problem is that, theologically, I agree with you, but I really don't see how this stuff helps. But maybe I've just had too much CPE after too much fundamentalism.

Allan R. Bevere said...

But maybe I've just had too much CPE after too much fundamentalism.

That's a comment worth unpacking.

PamBG said...

In my experience, both are about telling you what's wrong with you on the theory that you already think too highly of yourself. Not all CPE is like that, but that's how I experienced ours.

I'm currently studying Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises and there is an entire "Week" (which, in Ignatian terms is not a period of seven days but more like a "step" of indeterminate time) where the excercitant (the person making the exercises) considers his or her sins in detail and brings them before God. The thing is that it's in the relationship with God that the excercitant comes to confess their sins.

Realizing that one is sinful is, IMO, actually something of a conversion process. I do wonder how much we convert people by telling them "You are bad and the problem is that you think you aren't." Even "I am bad, and here's how I've come to realize it," works better, I think.

Allan R. Bevere said...

I agree that all of us need to come to that realization, but from my vantage point, if worship is also a morally forming activity, then we need to provide the language in worship that assists all of us in that endeavor. Thus, we should not ignore the language of sin. We need it to understand the significance of our redemption.