Do you know how hard it is to be a sinner these days?!!! It’s not that opportunities for sin don’t exist, its just that there are so many very nice people who are fervently dedicated to convincing me that a sinner is what I’m not. "No, no!" I’m scolded. "You’re not bad! You’re just reacting to your environment / upbringing / dinner." Oh? So I’ve got no responsibilty for my actions? That’s a bit scary ‘cos it also implies that I have no control either. A good out for any sexual predator, eh?
Or what about the disease model; "You do these things because you’re sick. With the right treatment you can recover and live a ‘normal’ life." Well, that’s cheerful – except that the ‘right’ treatment never sems to be as effective as its promoters claim, and all around the world are the confused recipients of various psychological ‘treatments’ who are wondering what is wrong with them that this wonderful treatment didn’t work.
If I do stuff up, then I can shift responsibilty to factors outside of myself – and give up ever changing what is outside my control. Or I can shift responsibilty to ‘illness’ in me, and find, again, that I have no control.
Or I can lay claim to some sort of morality and find myself in breach of a law greater than I.
But where’s the advantage in this? It doesn’t actually help me to gain control over the ‘sin’ to label it so, does it? What about the Apostle Paul, and his agonised cry: "I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want,
but the evil I do not want is what I do. … For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Letter to the Romans, Ch.7).
Like Paul, I can agonise over my apparent inability to get a handle on my own abberant behaviour, but so what? What difference does it make for me or the people who have to live with me?
The difference is that if I call it ‘sin’ I can do something about the most significant of all the consequences of my evil. Every evil action cuts me off; separates me further from the source of all goodness – call it ‘God’ if you will. Acknowledging sin for what it is means I can go into that relationship with God honestly and admit my failure – and so be forgiven. It’s damned hard to be forgiven if I can’t acknowledge transgressing. And if God forgives me -then anything is possible. If God forgives and accepts me, then I can take the risk that you will too – and take responsibilty before you for my sin.
Forgiveness doesn’t take away any consequence of evil except the ruin of relationships – but when ruined relationships are renewed by forgiveness, then with your help I have the hope of changing my ways. Without your forgiveness – without the renewal of relationships I am practically powerless to change anything – and why would I bother if I have already destroyed the most precious portion of my life?
And that takes me back to God too. It is in that relationship that I receive love to the limits of death and beyond. It is in God’s forgiveness that I am most strongly motivated and eqipped to make every possible change.
So call me a sinner, folks. Yeah, the environment and my upbringing and my own psycho-pathologies all contribute to the mix, but ultimately I’m the one who makes it or breaks it. I’m responsible. And when I take hold of that responsibility with both hands, then God gets the chance to help me lift the load and get back on with life. As the Apostle says "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! …There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."