Jul
02
2013

What looks like a loss may be the very event, which is subsequently responsible for helping to produce the major achievement of your life. Srully Blotnick

Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were. Marcel Proust

When all is said and done, there are some necessary steps that we must make to move into a friendship with God. One the one hand, they are daunting steps, no different than when Peter attempted to walk out onto the stormy sea when Jesus called him. And on the other hand, it will be the easiest thing we ever did in our lives, because from the beginning of time, this is where Jesus wanted us all along. In the rest of the book, we will explore what these challenges and changes are so that we can move to that place of friendship with him. While some of this might be scary and we might be unsure of our steps, at the end of the day, they will become some of the most exhilarating moments of our lives.

A crucial first step when one enters into friendship is that we begin to genuinely know and acknowledge who we are—flaws and all. With this, there is an understanding of ourselves in that we know that we are the worst of worst sinners no different than what Paul wrote about himself nearly 2,000 years ago (I Timothy 1:15-16). People like this have an understanding of what sin is like and what sin can do. Those who are moving in step with God know how to handle the sin and brokenness in their lives in healthy ways. Here is an important truth: friends of Jesus understand that they are sinners and they are okay with that, and they are not okay with that. They have the ability to hold those two truths in tension.

As an example, for some people they see things very black and white and they see two different types of sin—bad sin and good sin. What are the bad sins? Typically, these are things like sexual sin, stealing or killing someone. These are the big hitters. However, others like—laziness, gossip, greed, idolatry, arrogance, selfishness, divisiveness, cheating, jealously, being mean—these are the ones that aren’t so obvious. These are just to name a few and many see them as the “good” sins or in other words, the ones we typically overlook. There is a bumper sticker I have seen a handful of times on someone’s car—it simply reads “Mean People Suck.” I laugh every time I see it. I ask myself, doesn’t the person who slaps that on their bumper know that they “suck”—that they are mean themselves? Here is a truth—everyone is mean. Everyone says hurtful things; everyone does things that are completely wrong; there isn’t a person on earth who shouldn’t get used to uttering the words “I’m sorry.”  It can be so easy to not look in the mirror about our lives, but yet friends of Jesus know how to do this and they do it often.

There isn’t a day in which each of us hasn’t messed up multiple times in different ways. It is inherent in our very nature and we will never get away from this until the One we follow makes us perfect. The heart is deceitful above all things, this I know to be true (Jeremiah 17:9). I’ve seen it in my own life and I’ve seen it countless times with the people that I work with in the sharing of their stories with me. The human person is always struggling to hide. Listen to what the gospel of John says:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:19-21)

This passage offers what that difference is between the person who follows Jesus in their life and the one who does not. It declares one of chief differences—the one who is following is totally okay with coming into the light about their lives. The other person who isn’t following Jesus closely—they are terrified of being exposed of who they really are. It’s the father in great rage who beats the tar out of his son with a garden hose on a Saturday afternoon, and yet the next day goes to church with a smile and a “praise the Lord.” The wife who in her frustration with her own life turns to another man and tries to find solace in his arms. The young man who secretly pockets cash from customers while the boss goes out to lunch each Tuesday. The young woman who bitterly says false things to friends at school about a teen-age rival. We all have secrets, dark ones and there is this pull in which we want them to stay hidden.

LEARNING TO BE COURAGEOUS

Yet thankfully, on the other hand, there is also a place within each of us that wants them out into the light. Deep within us, each of us wants to be known. The truly courageous let their lives be known for what they truly are. Most of us are terribly afraid to let our dark secrets be known. To be in a relationship to Jesus, one can come to a place where we can be unafraid to be authentic in our walk with God. Some of you who are reading this have terrible secrets, either things done to you or things that you have done. You’ve never shared these things with anyone and they fester within you. Let’s not white wash our situation, we live in a very fallen world and we are good at appearances. Each of us has had some very cruel things done to us and we at the same time have been very cruel to others as well.

Friends of Jesus understand that there are all types of brokenness in their lives and in the lives of those around them. They know that sin is sin is sin. There is not “good” sin and there isn’t “bad” sin—all types of sin are really bad and cause havoc in our lives. In general, we need to know that there are two kinds of sins in which we can get caught. They are the sins of omission and commission. The sin of commission is something that we do wrong; we literally by the act of our will do something that God has said we should not do. This is typically what we think of when we think of the word sin. As example, such actions would be things like murder, stealing, adultery and the like. Again, culturally speaking, these are the bad sins.

The sin of omission is not something we typically think of as “sin.” Sins of omission are when we fail to do something God wants us to do. An example of this would be if a cashier mistakenly gave me an extra twenty dollar bill in returning my change and I didn’t speak up about their mistake. Because I failed to do what I was supposed to do (i.e., share with them their mistake), I “missed the mark,” which is the typical description of the word sin. When I was living in Chicago, there was a terrible incident that happened that illustrates these two different types of sin. One morning a woman was on the train platform and waiting for the train. As she was standing there, a man brutally raped and beat her almost to the point of death. Standing there, on the platform with her were nearly twenty people who did not do a thing to stop the incident which lasted nearly ten minutes. This incident is an example of the sins of commission and omission. In this case, both the man and the crowd on the train platform committed tremendous acts of evil. The individuals who sat idly by were just as evil as the person who victimized this woman. From a biblical perspective, on the day that this man stood trial for his crime and was found guilty, each of those twenty individuals should have also faced the same punishment.

However, in our day and age, the mere word sin is seemingly medieval, unnecessary and politically incorrect. Overall, we have forgotten who we are and what we are capable of. It can be good to go back to the ancient and medieval Christians who took the act of sin very seriously and had a detailed description and outline for it. As an example, the ancient fathers appropriately saw sin in various and vast ways. One could be sinful if they had:

  • Excessive love of others (lust)
  • Over-indulged anything to the point of waste (gluttony)
  • Hoarded materials or objects (greed)
  • Procrastinated in what you were supposed to be doing (sloth)
  • Inappropriately yelled at someone (wrath)
  • Wanted something someone else had (envy)
  • Thought they were better than someone (pride)

As another example, Thomas Aquinas took an expansive view of sin and categorized six different types of gluttony:

  • Praepropere – eating too soon
  • Laute – eating too expensively
  • Nimis – eating too much
  • Ardenter – eating too eagerly
  • Studiose – eating too daintily
  • Forente – eating wildly

We may look at this list and laugh, but there is something that we can learn in taking sin this seriously. What does sin do—it brings harm and brokenness to our lives, inevitably distances us from God (not the other way round), and can have long-lasting consequences. Why is looking at this so important; why should we be so detailed in addressing the sin and fallenness in our lives? Simply, so that we know where we need to grow. This is precisely what friends of Jesus do in an appropriate and healthy way. They fully look at their lives and address the areas where they fall short. They look at their lives and see how they hurt others and themselves and they do this with great self-examination down to the finest element.

Taking this discussion a step further, we need to also understand the danger of how we inevitably are drawn to hide our sin. Alice Sebold in her book The Lovely Bones tells the story of a young girl, Suzie, who at the tender age of twelve is brutally raped and murdered by her neighbor, Mr. Harvey. While in heaven, she is able to look down and see her sister Lindsey, her father and mother, and friends deal with this horrific incident. Because she is on the other side of the tragedy, she has a wisdom, because she can see the big picture. The novel paints a real and dark picture of how our world can sometimes be—where murder and rape really does happen. By no means is it an easy read. Too often we don’t want to see how life really can be, to realistically live in a world that is stained by sin—that little girls are raped and murdered, that fathers do beat their sons; that in our vocabulary, we do have words like rage, genocide, and hatred.

In Sebold’s book, there’s is a scene in which Suzie meets all the different girls in heaven who her perpetrator, Mr. Harvey has also murdered. She tells us something that is profound and it’s something that each of us needs to address in our own lives: 

Our heartache poured into one another like water from cup to cup. Each time I told my story, I lost a bit the smallest drop of pain…Because horror on the earth is real and it is every day. It’s like a flower or the sun. It can’t be contained.

Each time I told my story. These are important words. In the next three posts, we will discuss the importance of doing what Suzie recommends and how we can pursue this for ourselves—how we can open up and share the stories of our lives.


In: Friend to Jesus
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