Sunday, August 07, 2016

Why is sin so easy and being a Christian so hard?

Today’s question, the 2nd one in our 3 week sermon series “Questions from the Pews” is this: “Why sin is so easy and being a Christian so hard?”
          There is a lot packed into this singular question.
What is sin? For example, are we talking little s—foibles and folly, or big S, a controlling power?
What does it mean to be a human being? Are we inclined to evil, made that way, corrupted, or what?
What does it mean, as well, to be a Christian? Are we talking about being polite—“That was a right Christian thing you did today.” Or about community values, or about a relationship with Christ?
          But, before I venture too far off into the weeds with all this, I’ll give a simple answer to the question “Why is sin so easy and being a Christian so hard?”
Sin is easy because we’re mortals / infected by Sin.
Being Christian is both impossible and easy.

Sin is easy because we’re mortals
 infected by Sin.
          We’re mortal.
          This has two very practical implications. 1. We’re afraid of death. 2. We have a limited understanding of the world around us.

          We’re afraid of death—not always obviously, but so much of what we do is a denial of this firm reality. Everything from…
societal obsession with youth culture
to the way we talk euphemistically about funerals
to the general disregard we show for those generations who will live after we ourselves are dead.
          The shadow of death that looms over our lives clouds our judgment, and makes us more closed fisted than we ought to be, more concerned about self and self-preservation than is sane for a species such as our own.

          Death, also, is the ultimate blinder.
Our limited nature
—that we can only experience and know so much
—makes all of our choices unsteady and ambiguous.
Our viewpoint, both as individuals and as a species, is so limited that when the Unlimited One showed up,
when Jesus showed up,
we crucified him.
We were unable to recognize the one who recognized us from before we were born, from before creation was created!
 It is as Jesus says from the cross, “They know not what they do.”

We’re infected by sin.
          Sin isn’t simply individual accidents,
or bad habits,
or even sins plural,
instead it is a force, a power that controls us
with a capital S.
          As Paul writes in Romans, Sin has captured us, and not only us, but the Law itself. The Law of God, a good thing, is used to a bad end.
So too we, good and beautiful creatures created in the image of God, are used to a bad end.
Think of it:
Cowardice overshoots courage and becomes rashness.
Selfishness overshoots love and becomes enabling.

          Paul describes this situation we’re in as being captured,
being sold into slavery,
so we can’t do the very thing we wish to do, because our vile master, Sin, has control over us.
          Or, thinking of a more up-to-date description
—Sin is an addiction we can not break.
          Or as I like to think of it, Sin is an infection
—a disease that has overcome us all,
a cancer that has transformed good cells into destructive ones
—using the best as the worst.
Our individual sinful actions are simply symptoms of the wider disease,
a contagion raging through the whole world to such an extent that we don’t even notice we’re all infected.
A parasite plugged into each one of us that will not let go.
          Why can’t I quit sin, because it’s inside of me
… just as an infected person can’t simply stop infecting, because it is inside of them. More than that, it has infected the whole earth and holds it in its sway.

          Yes, Sin is easy because we’re mortals, blinded and made stingy by death.
          Yes, Sin is easy because we’re infected by Sin, captured and surrounded by its power.

          Being Christian is both impossible and easy.
          If being Christian is about being good,
about healing ourselves from the infection of sin,
of freeing ourselves from the slaver sin,
or becoming a dry drunk by not acting on our addictions and at the same time not dealing with the underlying problems
—treating symptoms but not diseases
—then Christianity is impossible.
          If being a Christian is an action, a disposition, something we do and we are…
synonymous with nice,
or clean,
or some other virtue,
some symptom of church attendance or something
—the little c christian to balance out the little s-plural sins,
then it is impossible,
for we can neither will ourselves to be Christ-like,
 nor push past sin,
nor barrel-roll away from death.

          But, if being Christian is about God acting for us, then it is not impossible, nor even hard, it is easy.
Think of Samson who we encountered last week—a schmuck among schmucks, yet God was faithful, being a person of faith was easy because God stuck with him.
          Or look at Paul in Romans… he reaches a breaking point—the impossibility of this life of sin we live:
 “I delight in the Law of God—but I make war against myself!
          “I battle sin on the outside, but am already captured by sin on the inside!
          “Who will save a wretch like me?
          “Who can rescue one such as me? I, in whom death dwells?”
          To which he responds with this glorious affirmation, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
          He throws his hands up in despair at the impossibility of it all, but then flips his palms up in a posture of praise!
It was that simple,
that easy
—Christ Jesus did it for him.
          In the face of death,
the curdling of our generosity,
Christ opens his hands to all from the cross.
          In the face of death and the way it blinds us,
Christ intercedes with his father, “They don’t know what they’re doing, forgive them!”
          Enslaved by Sin,
Christ pays our debt and frees us.
          Addicted to Sin,
Christ walks with us and digs deep, dealing with symptom and disease.
          Infected by Sin,
Christ destroys that parasite and frees us to be who we are.