It was a day for honesty. I was in a dark place. I was about to meet the SAP and, as I sat there waiting for him to arrive, I rehearsed what I was going to say.
“I need help. I’m having ongoing lustful thoughts about someone who is not my husband. I pledged money for the church offertory, I don’t even think we can afford it; actually, I know we can’t because I put it into the poker machine this morning in the hope of improving our cash-flow…” Oh boy. This was going to be a horrendous conversation.
In he walks. Chai is served. Small talk. Then: “So what did you want to talk to me about?” he asked.
Deep breathe. “SAP, I’m done. I met this woman through work and I have tried for months to ignore it, but there’s something there that’s more than friendship. After a few too many wines I fancy the hell out of her. She wants to fly me to her villa in Positano next week and, I don’t care what you say, life is too short not to act on this sort of electricity. So I’m going.
“And, look, while I’m unburdening my soul, I may as well tell you she’s made her money making porn movies. I’m going to help market them, they really aren’t as bad as you think.”
Just kidding (I think the SAP may have reached for his defibrillator with those opening paragraphs. Or fish oil, given he doesn’t remember any such conversation). With the subtlety of a sledgehammer, I simply want to make a small point about sin. That it all has equal weight.
Yet I’m wondering if readers will admit to any paragraph in particular that caused stronger feelings?
Was it a) my mental adultery b) the poker machines c) my lesbian porn-star lover d) that I’d pledged to the church offertory with no intention of stumping up with the goods e) all of the above f) none of the above.
I hope you picked f). The SAP would have done if that conversation had ever taken place. Because sin isn’t something we do. It’s what we are. The ‘what we are’ bit is tricky, as people can get upset being called a sinner. But rather than thinking sin as a judgement call, just think of it as a descriptor. The description: our distance from God.
If I ever sit down in front of the SAP and blurt out something like the first four paragraphs of this blog, I’m sure he’d just ask: “But what about Jesus, Phil?” With concern, kindness and compassion over my distance from God.
As I’ve written before, sin isn’t God (and, please Lord, Christians) wanting humans to feel bad about themselves. Sin is the gap between what we were created for and the reality of what we choose to do. It stems from the moment Adam failed to step in between Eve and that pesky serpent right up to when Jesus – flawless, perfect and of God – closed the gap.
So what about Jesus? Does he want me to elope with a porn-star lesbian lover to play the pokies in Positano? No, he doesn’t. He’d prefer me to be other-focused, to offer compassion to the weak and the needy and the oppressed. To share his Good News that in relationship with him I close the gap with God. But Jesus understands me. He knows daily I fall short.
So even if my ‘self’ wants to run amok in Positano, Jesus’ grace guides me to something larger. You see, I don’t have a view on whether you want to elope with a porn-star lesbian lover to Positano. Or if you’re jamming the pokies full of your money. No judgement, because of all the times I f*&k it up myself.
But if I have decided that, yes, Jesus is the dude who laid down his life for me, closing the gap so I can have a grace-filled loving relationship with God, it has to count for something.
It has to count in my heart. So to be true to what Jesus did for me – rather than being true to my self, which often gets tugged off course – I have to honour his sacrifice of his self over mine and follow his lead of love and grace.
There’s a massive bit about Christianity that I think is missed when sin gets bandied around like a punish word. God didn’t have to sacrifice His son. He chose to. That’s the depth and breadth of His love for us.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Jeramiah 31:3 : I