March 18, 2014
“All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order.”
1 John 3:4
“The Sin Problem #1”
“Sin is believing the lie that you are self-created, self-dependent, and self-sustained.”
Sin: What is it?
After reading the quotation above, how would I define the word, “sin”?
“Sin is not a thing; it is not a moral stain or blemish, it is a damage to a relationship, a rejection of love. It is a gap, a chasm, and those who have chosen to be far off must be brought back.”
“When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God. God called to the Man (Adam): ‘Where are you?’”
Last night was one of those gorgeous Arizona sunsets. The sun was setting in the west. And a slight breeze moved through the junipers, pines, and manzanita bushes which surround our home.
It was a beautiful evening. Even the sound of cars seemed to fade away into the distance. Occasionally an antelope squirrel made its familiar “chipping” sound and the trilling of a bird could be heard – but for the most part –it was the “quiet time of the evening.” That’s the time of the day that Genesis 3 tells us God came down to walk and talk with His friends – His created beings – Adam and Eve. As I feel the soft breeze on my face, my thoughts went back to a perfect garden – a garden with flowers that never died. A garden where trees never dropped a leaf. A garden that knew only life. And it was this garden, the garden called Eden, that Adam and Eve called their home.
The Bible tells us that at eventide, in the cool of the evening, God visited. He came to share time with Adam and Eve. I understand this fatherly behavior on God’s part for very often in the evening my dad used to call me, too. “How was your day, Dorothy-girl? Anything exciting happen?” he would ask. Then he’d wait for me to give him a rundown of every detail of my day.
I can only imagine God and Adam and Eve admiring the beauty of a rose or smelling the aroma of a white gardenia. It was a time of enjoyment. A time of peace. A time of fellowship.
Then, on one very sad day, God came to the garden and His friends were nowhere to be seen. Genesis 3 tells us God called out, “Where are you?” Not that He didn’t know. He knew – God was painfully, heart-brokenly aware of what had gone so very wrong on that fateful day.
In Genesis 3:10, there are recorded the saddest and most devastating words in history. “We hid from You because we were naked and afraid.” Afraid? Adam and Eve had never before known fear. Yet, something had happened, something so sinister, so horrific that their fear led them to run and hide in the trees from the Creator who had fashioned them in His image. At the moment when Adam and Eve chose to do things their way rather than God’s, at the very second when they decided they would put their wills above God’s – a toxin so corrosive entered their lives, they knew without anyone even telling them, they could not face the glory of the God who made them. They felt separate. There was a wall. And rather than look lovingly into their Father’s face, they hid in fear. The toxic poison – sin – had entered planet earth.
When I was a little girl, my grandmother, a deeply devout woman with an unquenchable work ethic, decided that giving money to children, even her grandchildren, might spoil them. Grandma, bless her dear heart, came up with an ingenious way to “give” us money. We had to “earn” it by memorizing Scripture. Before you think this was a rather stiff requirement, I’ll tell you that for the most part, the texts on Grandma’s list were comforting and uplifting. Psalm 1, 23, 37, 91, and 57 – those entire chapters made her list, but there were also individual texts – John 3:16, 1 John 1:9, John 14:1-3, and 1 John 3:1-4. I loved 1 John, especially the part where God calls us “His children.” But when I got to memorizing 1 John 3:4, “whosoever committeth sin transgresseth the law: for sin is the transgression of the law,” I can tell you, as a young child that big word “transgression” sounded extremely ominous. I asked, “Grandma, what does that mean?” She very kindly informed me, “Dorothy, it’s when you disobey!” I got that. In our family, you were taught not to disobey, especially your mom and dad.
So, little Miss Mischief – I, Dorothy – decided at the young age of 10 years, I was going to take care of sin. I wasn’t going to be a transgressor – or in my understanding – a “disobeyer.” I decided I would keep track each day of any “sin” I committed. I was going to eliminate any “transgressing behavior” from my life. Now I’m going to tell you something. I can be very disciplined when I want to be. And quite soon, my childish list of “sins” was very short. I became the family darling – smiling, saying, “Yes please, no thank you” and all the other perfect words. I was even nice to my little sister and offered to help her clean up her room. Day after day, with hard work and personal effort, I forced myself to be “Little Miss Perfect!” I was so proud of myself! Get out of my way world. But the next thing you know, I began to look at everybody else and compare myself. “Look what so-and-so did,” I’d tell myself as I gloated. “I’m better than they are! Yippee!”
I was like the lady who went to her Pastor and said, “I’m perfect!” “Really,” her Pastor replied. “Oh, yes,” she retorted, “And the last sin to leave my life was – pride!” she boasted.
For many years, as little Dorothy grew up, I believed that my hard, consistent effort was all I needed to keep my list of “transgressions” to a minimum. I now know, I wasn’t alone in my thinking. Nearly everyone has at one time or another in their lives either been told or believed that if you worked harder and changed your behavior, you could conquer sin. Why? Because sin is doing bad things. Sin is telling a lie. Sin is committing adultery. Sin is killing somebody. Sin is what you do that is wrong.
However, I’d like to go back to the quotation by Ruth Burrows and reassess our definition of “sin.” “Sin is not a thing; it is not a moral stain or blemish; it is a damage to a relationship, a rejection of love.” If we return to that sad evening in the garden of Eden, and in our mind’s eye, walk side-by-side with God and hear Him call out, “Where are you?” We will see that He is alone rather than in the company of Adam and Eve, because somewhere in the bushes, two naked people are hiding, feeling fear for the very first time in their lives. They are feeling exposed for they are naked. They are feeling ashamed for they have done “their own thing.” But most of all – they feel separated from their Father for they have sinned. And there you have the real definition of sin -- it is anything that separates me from God.
The problem with my childish list of no-no’s was that it was a reflection of my behavior, not my relationship and this is key to God’s solution to the “sin” problem. It’s not all about what you do, it is all about Who you know!
For God, on that fateful evening in the Garden of Eden, when the relationship between a loving Father and His willfully, wayward children was destroyed by the toxin of sin, God could have turned his back and walked away. He could have said, “You blew it. I’ll start over. I’ll take care of you two in one nano-second.”
But that is not natural to the character of our Father for the Bible says, “He is love.” Instead, God turned to Adam and Eve and promised them that with every fiber of His being, He would do everything He could and had to do to restore and heal and bring “at-one-ment” into the universe again.
What I find mind-boggling to a little Miss Perfect named Dorothy who thought she could conquer “sin” by doing it on her own with elbow-grease and clenched teeth – is that my Heavenly Father loves me so much that even when my behavior doesn’t measure up – He loves me anyway – and He will do everything He can not to make me do the “right things” but to restore my relationship with “the right person” – my Father! God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to “repentance” means to turn around and reverse directions. For Adam and Eve it meant not doing their own will but doing the will of their Father and it means the same thing for you and me.
“Sin is to live according to one’s own will and cast aside the will of God.”
“How can I tell of such love to me? You made me in your image and hold me in the palm of your hand, your cords of love, strong and fragile as silk bind me and hold me. Rich cords, to family and friends, music and laughter echoing in memories, light dancing on the water, hills rejoicing. Cords that found me hiding behind carefully built walls and led me out, love that heard my heartbreak and despair and rescued me, love that overcame my fears and doubts and released me. The questions and burdens I carry you take, to leave my hands free –to hold yours and others, free to follow your cords as they move and swirl in the breeze, free to be caught up in the dance of your love, finding myself in surrendering to you. How can I tell of such love? How can I give to such love?
I am, here I am.”
“It was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. I lifted the yoke from their neck.”
Hosea 11:3, 4
New International Version
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