Thursday, June 16, 2011
The Only Treatment for Sin
It is no wonder that our people do not get confession and absolution since they have learned from our culture and the media that sin is not really sin. It is a disorder or addiction that requires treatment. Confession does not fall within the realm of treatment and ego te absolvo does not fall within the realm of our definition of medicine, either. So we are more and more confirmed in our sinfulness. Perhaps this is exactly what Scripture means when it speaks of the hardening of the heart. For nothing short of a direct hammer blow to this glass house can break through and we have made this glass pretty solid.
Every sin is at its root narcissism. It is the violation of the first commandment that is behind all other commandments broken. And the first commandment disowns narcissism -- when self becomes more important than God, than others, than morals, than values, than anything... I suppose you could call Rep. Weiner stupid and foolish but in the final estimation only a vain and narcissistic person would constantly take pictures of himself and send them to others. You can fault him for the clothing or lack of clothing in the pictures but why else would anyone take poor quality photos of themselves on their camera phone and send them to someone, to anyone? Clothed or unclothed, tasteful or not, it is pure narcissism. The Congressman is not a whole lot different than the two late twenty-something women who sat in front of my wife and I as we went to see Michael Buble a while back. Every few moments they pulled out their I-Phone to take pictures of themselves -- not of the performer whose performance cost a decent amount of money but of them. A couple of exceptionally large cans of beer only made it worse as the night went on.
You're so vain... she sang. I am so vain... The world is so vain... Our vanity is not a simple affront to God but our ultimate undoing. Only rightly ordered relationships can begin to hold this vanity in check... parent and child, husband and wife, citizen and neighbor. . . creature to Creator. Christ did not come to do away with these relationships or to set us from from their limitations but to restore to us the right relationship which sin had stolen from us. For it is only in light of these relationships that we know who we are. Sin steals away this identity. Rep. Weiner, Gov. Terminator, Sen./former Presidental Candidate Edwards.... not only forgot who they were but lost their identity in a sea of mirrors which inflated their egos and deflated their wisdom. In the end, we found out that they were not exceptional, like they wanted us to believe, but so full of themselves they thought they were above the Law (God's). The first casualty of our vanity is usually our conscience. The only treatment for this is Law and Gospel. The only medicine is grace. The only therapy is death and resurrection through the waters of baptism (and its daily dying and rising).
I do not speak from the vantage point of superiority. I have taken the treatment and am not cured. I am in a state of grace but it is a tenuous position -- not because God's grasp on me is weak but because my sinful nature is always looking over my shoulder -- not just away from God but into the mirror. I am in love with my own reflection. So are you. It is what sin is and this mortal body will not be free of this vanity until we shed this flesh and rise to our new and glorious bodies to dwell with Christ in a perfectly ordered relationship resulting in perfect contentment for all eternity. That is why confession and absolution, why the voice of the Word, why the food of the Lord's Table must constantly be supplied to me... or surely I will fall completely away and never even know it. The saddest part of this all is not what Rep. Weiner and others have done but their complete failure to recognize what they have done, why it is wrong, and why something bigger is at work here than being caught. My live is lived within the parameters of God's Word and Table; they are what keeps me from walking down the road of denial (in which sin requires treatment not repentance).