"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, NIV 1984).
We were riding back from a soup kitchen where I had volunteered for the afternoon. Carol has been a guidance counselor for many years and sat next to me in the back seat. Remarking on the many men we had served, some of whom we had recognized from a better life, Carol commented, "There, but for the grace of God, I would be."
Some of these men had been broken by the sins of society and some had been broken by sins of their own. But sin was the root of their suffering. Such thoughts drew me to my own sins during the long ride home, not those of alcohol abuse, drugs or theft, but the greater sins of envy, greed and pride.
I don't think about sin much, at least not my own. Whenever a pastor preaches about sin, I will sometimes check off the bad actions I have not committed, with an occasional pause over ones that I have. I suspect such ruminations miss the point of sin in my life, probably in two ways.
First, I suspect the actions that led some of these men toward trouble and a soup kitchen may be less severe in God's eyes than the greed, pride and envy in my own life. As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: "The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred.That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither."
Secondly, I suspect that the outward actions we call sins are but reflections of who we really are. I suspect that sin is most about being who we should not be, rather than acting like we should not act. I suspect that all of us are partly persons we should not be, though some of us are able to control the actions that would prove the person we truly are. As Watchman Nee put it: "The teaching of Romans is not that we are sinners because we commit sins, but that we sin because we are sinners. We are sinners by constitution rather than action." The Normal Christian Life
Herein lies the work of the cross - after the cross, by taking Christ into our lives, we have begun the process of becoming who we should be. By abiding in Him, we become less of the one we should not be. Our actions often remind us that we are not there yet. Some of us who have begun the process of changing into His likeness will still act in ways that land us in jail or break our lives to where we need soup kitchens. But for those of us who have taken Christ into our lives as our Savior, our old self is dying, Christ is gaining and someday we will be wholly free from the sin that can no longer own us.
Thank you that you have freed me from sin and are daily changing me into your likeness.