Friday, February 18, 2005
Asking if there's sin in me is a lot like asking if there's water inside a fish. Which one am I supposed to confess? Which ones am I supposed to know about? Separating sin from the fabric of a human's life is like trying to take the dye out of a piece of cloth, or so it seems to me and I just gave it up.
My solution to this problem in the past has been to leave it in God's hands. I learned that I'm not strong enough to hold up under the search for good and evil. Larry alone can't figure this out, but the Holy Spirit and Larry are more than a match for it. As long as I hold his hand truth is clear. So why would one man's reminder so quickly overwhelm my way of doing things, the way God has taught me?
Call it the power of the moment, and being able to see the man. There's also history, all those many church meetings I've attended that hammered in the same idea. God has uphill battle teaching me a way that leads to life instead of judgment.
A day or so after I went to church with Jennifer and Maurice, I got an Email message from a friend. He's been struggling with forgiveness, and I'd reminded him that God forgave him completely when he believed that Jesus died in his place. Somehow, my friend just didn't get this. I wrote back and suggested that he's heard too many stories from other people, and has
lost track of God's Name for him. At the same time I asked God to remind my friend of forgiveness.
Now, praying is a lot like shining a bright light out through a window. The glass reflects some of the light. In other words, if you ask God to give someone else a hotfoot your own toes heat up. Here I was, having abandoned the way of grace and asking God to show that way to my friend.
Sin is a wall. The reminder of sin reinforces the wall when it's open-ended. Human beings have been taught well the technology of self-judgment. Ever since Adam and Eve ate the wrong fruit we've been trying to do the wrong thing: figure out good and evil on our own. Forgiveness is a foreign language and we try to do God's work for him. To save him the effort I guess.
But he already did it. History is in his hands, a new history that starts with his forgiveness.
Jesus straightened up and asked her,
"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus said.
"Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:10,11 NIV)
I thought about this through the week. On the bus, at home, and decided distraction was better. God was trying to get my attention but I didn't want his judgment added to my own. No matter how many times he demonstrates his acceptance I still get scared when I don't follow what I perceive the church's rules to be. Forgiveness from God is one thing, but how do I explain that to anyone else?
Two ideas war. To be invisible or to shine brightly. By life and adaptation I'm very good at the former, but God's Spirit moves in and torches the place. The human soul becomes incandescent just because of its connection with God. Hold his hand for very long and the flames run high. That hand is where life comes from. Am I to let go of him just so that I'll fit in with a church?
Maybe this is what all the barbarian talk is about. For all their destructive tendencies, barbarians have also taken apart moribund empires and replaced them with something more dynamic if less coherent. It's too bad we can't find a better balance between chaos and order.
Friday morning, grey light leaks slowly into a sky that's pouring down rain. It finally arrived. After days of warning and people on the bus laughing at me because I was going to get soaked on my way home, I lie in bed listening to magic water falling from the sky. Pour water onto a desert for long enough and something will start to grow, and even a professional hard case can learn forgiveness. With enough reminders.
2005 February 18
Challenging, perhaps. What I don't understand is why this idea of forgiveness is so radical! It should be common knowledge, used by every follower of Jesus, but it almost seems like a secret that is held for just the best people or something.
Either God is being extra nice to me in teaching me this, or I'm extra desperately in need of it. Or just tired enough of standard Chrstianity to go looking for alternatives that work.
It is a common theme in the followers of Jesus I see who have a real relationship. They don't try to earn forgivemess.