Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Misunderstanding original sin. . .

In Romans we hear St. Paul contrast perspectives on the commandments.  The old man in us is blunt and clear.  I don't want to keep them.  I don't want to trust God.  I don't want to worship God.  I don't want to serve God.  I don't want to love my neighbor.  And I won't unless you make it worth my while but my heart will never be in it.  Eve, however, was not a basically good person who slipped up.  She was boldly rejecting God, His Word, and His will.  Her sin was disobedience but this disobedience proceeded from unbelief.  All sin does.  Taking the forbidden fruit of itself the fruit of the rejection of her heart and her refusal to let God be God.

That is how we misunderstand original sin.  We want to think that original sin means the potential to evil or even perhaps the fact that we are prone to it.  We want to believe that down deep we are better people than we appear on the outside.  Sure, we screw up now and then and think and say and do evil but we are also good enough to recognize it and generally to regret and repent of it.  But Scripture speaks about this ancestral sin in much bolder terms.  The heart is worse than our worst thought, word, or deed.  (Matthew 15)  It is the source of it all.  We do not learn it from others but it become the stain on our nature that is the source of all kinds of evil we prefer not to admit to ourselves, much less God and others.  Sin is the refusal to let God be God, the rejection of our role as creature to our Creator.

But dang it God insists upon loving us no matter the cost.  He insists upon sending His Son to be our sacrificial offering to pay sin's price.  He insists upon forsaking His one and only Son to redeem His enemies.  The righteousness we refused to work for and could not become, He gives to us freely, declaring us to be what we are not.  How great is the love of God!!

Faith is not only the "aha" moment occasioned by the Spirit that makes us aware of what Christ has done, it is is the freedom to begin to become what God says we are.  Christ alone can do what must be done but He has done it for me so that I can do what I was created to do.  Christ kept the commandments for us.  He fulfilled all the Father's saving will for us.  He died for all -- the good and the bad, the believer and the unbeliever, once for all the world.  To continue to try and do what Christ has already done is to reject what He has done.  What we ought to be focusing on is not repeating or replacing what Christ alone can do and has already done but doing what remains our vocation in creation.

Somehow or other, it is too easy for Christ's I have already done it to mean oh, I guess that means we don't have anything left to do.  So we act as if our lives have been given back to us to do fulfill the willful and selfish desires of the old man.  I don't have to go to Church to be a Christian.  I don't have to be faithful to my spouse when I don't feel like it.  I don't have to give to support the Church when my heart is not in it.  I don't have to sing the hymns on Sunday morning if I don't like them.  I don't have to kneel or bow or do any of the ceremonies of the liturgy if I don't find them meaningful.  But how is this different from the very attitude of Adam and Eve that got us into trouble in the first place?

We are now alive in Christ -- the new man cooperating with the Holy Spirit to daily kill the old man by contrition and repentance.  We are made brand new in Christ but the old man is still active.  So I still need the instruction of the Law.  The Spirit is at work in me not only through the Gospel but in the Law as well. 

There is no tension between the Law and Gospel in God -- He is not schizophrenic.  The tension lies in us.  The Christian, with the old nature still refusing and the new person created in Christ Jesus.  As long as we are this side of glory, we need both the Law and the Gospel.  Thanks be to God the Lord knows this -- even if we don't.  And if the preacher is faithful, we will hear this from the pulpit and in the classroom it will be taught.  Don't look to your heart to guide you.  Don't be true to yourself.  This sounds wonderful but it only locks us into the very prison from which Christ has sprung us.  Listen to the Law -- this is God's good will.  Be true to Christ and to the new life you live in Him. 

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