Lectionary Readings for Sunday
Sin, let’s just say it! It is a difficult issue that we all face in our lives. In faith we struggle against it and the views that we hold on it are influenced by the theology that is espoused by the church leaders. We have two extremes that continually cause us to falter in our walk with Jesus. We have those that are legalistic and point out how much we must do in order to be right with God and another side which just wants to ignore it altogether. It is a difficult path to walk. Remembering, I am a sinner is important because at the same time I acknowledge that I am also redeemed. My sin is no longer an anchor around my neck leading me down. No one can drag up my sin with any real power, but at the same time I needn’t ignore it or act as if it did not happen. In Christ Jesus I can take it to the next level in acknowledging it, accepting my failure, responding humbly asking the accuser for forgiveness, and letting it go. The reality is that if my past errors have caused pain and struggle in another it behooves me to ask for their forgiveness, honestly and humbly. Unfortunately, that is not often the way of the world. We don’t like to talk about those things, so we pack them away and from time to time as it comes out, which it inevitably will, we do all that we can to stuff it back in and try to ignore it. The reality of this is that as more and more things are stuffed away there is no way we can hold it all in and when we do this it harms us and will embitter us causing separation in relationships.
Jeremiah highlights this issue in our world. God warns in Jeremiah 23:16 for us not to listen to the prophets that are only speaking messages that don’t give warning, but hope. It’s hard to tell people about things that are wrong if you are concerned that it may cause friction in the relationship. I know we can also point to those that, it seems, are all to happy to tell those that are not living a righteous life they are going to Hell. Both are extremes and it is not what we are speaking about. The way we often do things is we try to fit in and assimilate to the world or we condemn the world outright. Jeremiah wasn’t talking to the world when he was sharing God’s Word, he was talking to the people of God. He was calling out those that called themselves prophets of God. In all reality, our concern for the world is to bring them to faith in the Lord and teach them the ways of God, not in beginning with condemnation but desiring that the Holy Spirit fully free them from the bondage of the flesh. The reality is that we all struggle with, as Paul described, thorns in our flesh that we pray for the removal knowing in the end all will be taken away. I have my thorns I struggle against as does everyone. Now this does not excuse, those of us who believe and trust in Christ, us to do things as we did prior to faith without any thought or concern for what that means for our salvation, ala “I am saved, so I just have to ask for forgiveness and it doesn’t matter.” This is truly a perversion, but the other extreme to damn others or base the salvation of others on the works they do is equally a perversion. It is a balance of understanding that our salvation is based upon what it is that Jesus has done for us and our lives are a reflection of that. We honor the sacrifices of those that have come before us, as described in Hebrews, as well as those that believe today and suffer for that faith, i.e. those that are being persecuted in the Middle East and in the East where Islam is the dominant faith.
As followers of Christ, we are called to be prepared for the return of our Lord at all times. Our lives are the written invitation to those that do not know the promises of our Lord and are in the darkness. It is a realization that Christ died for all and had redeemed all of creation and our witness is to be a light on that hope and promise that this salvation may be claimed through belief. We pray that all people receive the gift of faith. It is a difficult battle that we fight, since we know through Scripture that not all will truly come to the knowledge of that faith. This salvation realization can not be realized for another, but another may come to that realization through the revelation of the Holy Spirit and we pray that for them. On our own our minds are clouded by sin which blinds us to the truth. Most people don’t, honestly, see themselves as bad. We know we don’t always do the things in the way we should, but most of us would still say that we are still good. It is under a false assumption that makes good enough into good. Let us apply this logic to other things in life. If you were to build a car to the best of your ability, but the wheel falls off, is it still good enough? Of course not! That wouldn’t be acceptable in our eyes, so why do we think good enough would be acceptable to our perfect God? We are made perfect by the one and only Son of our God, Jesus Christ. He wasn’t good enough, he was perfect. In our acceptance of this gift as revealed to us through this Holy Spirit transformation is inevitable. To act as though nothing were different is a mockery of the faith and is not a reflection on the gift of the salvation but of the one who is acting like the transformation is not important or is of little value. Our behavior does not necessarily effect our salvation, but it’s affect may be, at minimum, a diminished witness. Early on this may mean little, but the Holy Spirit will work on the heart of one who confesses they believe and imagine the heartbreak when they see the effect of their poor witness in the rejection of those they may love of that same gift.
As a firm believer in the salvation that has been given me in Christ Jesus, the thought of my witness possibly damaging the faith of another is heartbreaking. It is my prayer that this does not happen. I also feel the fire that my Lord had ignited in me to share the Gospel to all that will hear it. My heart weeps for the lost, it has been broken. That is the great power of the faith that we have. I come with a belief that my Lord can overcome all obstacles better than I can. I step back from those that believe that we then don’t speak to those in the faith who are falling short or failing or that God would bless sin. The reality of our faith is that the Words of the Holy Word is written to those who confess their belief and for that reason we shouldn’t be surprised when those that are caught up in the worldly things do what worldly people do. It is important, however, that we do not allow these things to become a part of our witness. I understand the tension in this because of how easy it can be to fall in one ditch or the other between those that become legalistic and those that act as if “everything goes.” The difficulty comes through being faithful in prayer and study of the Word. This is to help and the reality is that one could study and pray 24/7 for 100 years and still not completely know how to walk that line well – that’s where grace steps in. Just because we can’t doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to try. The attempts are the tool that can inspire because when we focus on this it isn’t as a way to point a finger at the other who does less, it is about self. I know this about me. I can not be proud in my attempts because I never do enough myself. I don’t need to compare myself with another either because if they do less, I am no better, and if they do more I mustn’t fall into despair because I am not doing enough. It is about my spirit and how I seek after guidance from the Holy Spirit that my life may be a light to others of the glory of God. That is the prayer I hold for all. Let your life reflect the Word and the Word be written upon your heart.