Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The lie. . .

It seems that just about everywhere we look voices are encouraging people to define themselves by their appetites or desires.  But this is nothing more than a great lie -- the lie that sexual inclination or orientation is, of itself, an identity.  For the Christian this lie is especially insidious.  It is nothing less than sin which defines our identity as the sum of our desires.  This is precisely what God has intervened to address with the gift of His Son.  For the Christian, it is not possible for us to allow our identities (as the world defines them) to be born of the desires in us -- whether noble or notorious.  We are not who we were, says St. Paul.  We are the people God has declared us to be.  And that, according to St. John, is the children of God.  Beloved, that is who we are.  That is our identity.

Appetite is a dangerous thing to define who we are.  It is not simply a problem with sexual desire but with any desire.  We live in an age of rampant consumerism in which the customer is always right.  We are in love with the gods of our technology that seemingly promise us everything and deliver much less (though we are loathe to admit it).  We have defined nature in its rawest form as the great good which is defiled by man's mere presence as well as mankind's plundering ways.  Our appetites change and evolve and cannot be the certain ground on which to build an understanding of who we are or what we are here to do.  That is the hidden lie that the Law exposes.  It does not merely convict of us the things we have done but of the lies we have told and continue to tell ourselves about who we are and why we are here.  The gift of the Gospel is not simply an external forgiveness but the gift of a radical new identity borne of Christ and His redeeming work and shaped not by our desires but God's desire to redeem His lost creation.

The Church needs to be especially careful because we are so tempted to use the language of the world, especially when it comes to speaking to and with youth.  We cannot succumb to the vocabulary of the world for it will lead inevitably to the lie that the Christian Gospel has come to replace.  No one can look inside himself or herself to find an answer to longing or hope that endures.  No one can look inside to find a solid ground on which to build a future.  No one can look inside to find an enduring reality (other than guilt and shame or the fragile lie that cannot endure).  We must look beyond the self and into the realm of God.  What is a worthy foundation for our lives and a solid future on which to build is not how we see ourselves but how God sees us and what His redemptive love has accomplished to save and redeem us from ourselves as much as from sin, death, and the devil.

It is for freedom Christ has set us free and not to exchange one hopeless captivity for the next bondage to despair.  What God has done in Christ is not a liberty we decide how to use but the only true freedom there is -- the freedom to know God as He is and to know ourselves according to His own self-revelation of love and grace and mercy.  Without God's direction, we are consigned to live out our lives in the constant pursuit of desire, the worst prison there is.  In the end it will leave us with nothing that is true or dependable beyond the moment.  This, in contrast with eternity, shows us that God's gift is more than external salvation but the gift of a new internal identity which finds its fulfillment in the everlasting life that we know now by faith but will know soon face to face.  We are not who we think we are but who God thinks we are.  The sooner we learn this, the quicker we will give up the dead ends and detours offered by the world and the culture of self that trades our future upon the currency of lies and deception.

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