Monday, January 21, 2019

Changing Narratives

It is likely you have seen this story, and perhaps you are cringing just a bit to see such behavior. For some of these young men their clothing identifies them as students at a Catholic high school.  Not only that, but they were reportedly in the area to participate in the Right to Life March. Here is a link with a more complete story than most sources. And here is NPRs update. 

[As the new link suggests this story gets more complicated. I apologize for contributing to the confusion and to the incorrect assumptions. I am editing this blog to better speak to my original goal: how do we respond to people who feel the sin of a few Christian shows that all Christians are bad? As I hope this post explains -- Christians are bad -- but God has a plan for that. (edited 1-22-19)]

What can we learn from this?

First and foremost, we are all sinners living in a sinful world. Secondly, sin is not an excuse for ridiculing others or condemning truth and justice. And third, sin is not erased by brute force, by contempt, or a righteous cause. The only thing that defeats sin is grace.

Why then, is the sin of a Christian different? It is certainly not any less consequential.  Sin is selfish; it turns away from God. It is harmful to the sinner and others.  It spreads and justifies itself. It seeks out others to join its cause. It is never on the side of truth. Sin is sin, and we must look it in the eye and call it so.

There are those who feel Christian sin is different because we “claim to know better” or because we “think we are without sin.” No Christian I know believes this. I feel safe in saying that if a Christian says he is without sin, he is seriously deluding himself regarding his Christianity. But, you don’t have to take my word for it:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. I John 1:8

If we want to understand the difference between the sin of a Christian and other sins we need to look at the next verse:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1: 9

Please note that sin is forgiven, not excused. Forgiveness is not about saying that “boys will be boys” or “we all do things in our youth that we regret.” It is important that confession precede forgiveness. We should note that confession does not have as its purpose the earning forgiveness, but instead the purpose of facing the sin head-on, of admitting to the sin, and of regretting it. God could choose to forgive us without confession, but His goal is more than erasing the sin. His goal is redemption.

Once we acknowledge our guilt, we can walk the road through repentance. We feel the grief our sin has caused, and we carry that grief to the cross. At that point, we can experience the overwhelming power of forgiveness. Grace brings about change.

Forgiveness is something learned. Once we have experienced the joy of being released from the burden of guilt we are then able to share that forgiveness with others. We can forgive sin, forgive differences in opinion, forgive different life circumstances, and even forgive ourselves. The experience of forgiveness and of forgiving others is a gift of grace that goes beyond our salvation. It is a gift for our life on earth.

We love because He first loved us. I John 4:19

This love of God is what makes the sin of a Christian different. It is a sin that, because of the power and grace of God can lead to growth and change. Christians are not people without sin. We are people with the sure hope of redemption.

Let us bring our sins to the cross and return with a spirit of forgiveness.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not  ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him; bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His  glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the  saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9 - 13