The struggle

Sin (I)

BY GEORGE HERBERT

Lord, with what care hast thou begirt us round!
      Parents first season us; then schoolmasters
      Deliver us to laws; they send us bound
To rules of reason, holy messengers,
Pulpits and Sundays, sorrow-dogging sin,
      Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,
      Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in,
Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,
Blessings beforehand, ties of gratefulness,
      The sound of glory ringing in our ears,
      Without, our shame, within, our consciences,
Angels and grace, eternal hopes and fears.
      Yet all these fences and their whole array
      One cunning bosom-sin blows quite away.
No matter how we grow up, the learning we have, the rewards and the threats of punishment, we all sin. In my study of the Nazarene definition of sin according to their Articles of Faith,  there is one main area that I am getting caught on: whether we are responsible to God for all sins, voluntary as well as involuntary. Nature vs nurture.

What is my responsibility, and what is just the mess I land in? What is temptation and what is actual sin? And I keep stepping over the line in the dirt. Sometimes it is easier to find the counterfeit by knowing the real thing. So what is the standard that God calls us to hold?
Jesus laid it out in Matthew 22 as He was being questioned by the religious parties of the day:

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

So, what actions during the day do I perform to help someone out, and which ones do I perform to look good, get advancements, gain brownie points? Does Jesus really mean this – even in today’s society? How do I show someone love? Put their best interests before my own…and not grudgingly. Do I show God love?

James wrote in James 4 of another standard that God has given us to measure by:

17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

How much learning, how many lessons, how many failures and consequences have taught us what is good, and what is bad?

And back in Leviticus 5, there was that annoying set of laws for making sacrifices for sins you committed without knowing it. So whether you jump over the line or wander over it without thinking, God’s line of holy vs not holy is still crossed regularly by all of us. In the end, it is a battle of good vs evil. Jesus has won the war, and offers us part of that victory. Then we must turn to Him to recognize the skirmishes we face with sin, and win them by His strength.

God, the more I study sin, the more I can see in my own life. The law really does act like a mirror to my life. Thank You for helping me to see, and for helping me learn to look to Jesus rather than drowning in my failures. To You be the glory, God! Please help me to learn to love You every day. Amen.

 

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