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Entries in sin-avoidance (2)


Why avoiding sin's consequences isn't the point.


A family member said to me that he never wanted to find himself in the situation David got into with Bathsheba.  My relative would do all he could to avoid the consequences of sin, rather than risk falling into temptation and it's aftermath.  As we talked, I sensed this was how he lived his life:  "Avoid sin and the judgement that follows." Stay clear of sin's allure because you don't want to pay the piper. 

While there is the command to flee from sin, and to be self-controlled [Which is to say, be "Spirit-led"], I think there's a better alternative to the "stay out of trouble, avoiding the consequences" model: 

God's unhindered affection is a much better reason not to sin than the fear of consequences or judgement is.

  • It's better to avoid sin because you're well-loved and have the real thing, not needing sin's false promise. 

  • It's better to be obsessed with how well regarded you are by our Father, than to become preoccupied with consequences and outcomes. 

Love covers a multitude of sins.

  • It's better to indulge the striking goodness of your new and noble heart; than to allow fear to overshadow your God-hearted nature.

Delight is stronger than judgement:  Affection reassures where fear accuses.


"...and please, try not to sin."

I've spent much of the last 43 years trying not to sin.

I think it's because I'm afraid.  There's been an uneasyness with sin because there's been an uneasyness with God:  "Am I really safe? Safe-enough to screw up?  Safe-enough to really blow it and remain highly-favored and in good standing with the Father?  Or will he be...disappointed?

The Church, in a wonderful journey of co-dependence, has helped me avoid sin and to fear it.  We've turned God into a behavior-modification therapist.  Most sermons are about getting people to avoid or discontinue sin.  Avoid the wrong thing, and try harder to do the right thing.  As a result, we've taught people that God is more interested in managing externals, rather than in nourishing, strengthening and encouraging a new internal reality -- the wholly new and good hearts we received when we became apprentices to Jesus.  No wonder we haven't seen the spiritual transformation we're looking for:  you can't get there from here.

Of course it is good not to yield to sin; but if that becomes the point, then most of our energies will be consumed by avoiding something, rather than living in something stronger and more life-giving.

Most parents are afraid of their children's sin and work really hard to manage their kids (think "control") so that they don't err.  As Danny Silk, author of Loving Our Kids on Purpose -- Making a Heart-to-Heart Connection indicates:  "What this reveals is that we are terrified by our children's poor choices.  We try to eliminate as many as possible."  As Silk points out, perhaps the way in which we handle our children is how we believe God handles us:  Be afraid of sin, because this isn't a safe place to fall.

But fear is never an appropriate method of transformation.  It may produce external conformity, but never inward maturity.  It certainly can't produce love itself.

I've also been enslaved to the notion that sin is more powerful than me.  As Silk indicates in Loving Our Kids On Purpose, "We still believe that sin is more powerful than we are.  When children grow up in an environment where their parents are scared of sin, they learn to fear failure."

This fear carries with it the assumption that what's exterior to me has more control over me than what is interior to me.  It's the mistaken idea that what is least true of me (I still have the capacitiy to sin, but no longer the nature to sin) is more true and powerful than an already-present and growing holiness -- a supernatural goodness -- now present within me.  That's the real me.  Ezekiel 36:26 ("I will give you a new heart and new spirit) has come to pass, in me, at the deepest level.

Fear can constrain behavior -- for a while; but it can never restore freedom.