By George Elerick
There was this girl down the street from us who used to live in a cardboard box. A real verifiable cardboard box. She moved out when she was 16, she and her mom couldn’t get along after her dad left the family for another woman. Her world was wrecked. Her idea of love became a series of rejections, one after the other. As she would walk down the street, there was this voice that would whisper loudly, “You’re not good enough. Who would want you?” This is the message she carried with her.
If you were to go back to the street where the girl used to be, you would notice only one one thing that has changed: her age. This poor, little, defenseless girl has now turned into an old bitter bag lady. She listened to the voices. She not only listened to them, she believed them. She agreed with them.
I wonder what our voices are? I wonder how many silent screams we agree with in our lifetime?
I wonder if some of the words we hear as we sit in our church pews are the one’s we were never meant to hear? We hear inflammatory statements about this place called ‘hell’ and this other place called “heaven.” And that our existence hangs in the balance based upon whether we say a certain kind of prayer or not.
Now, I am not minimizing a need for salvation or even saying that salvation is wrong or bad. I am challenging whether the way we have heard it over the years is what it was intended to be? I don’t think we can afford to be a people who just accept messages from a person behind the pulpit. Truth is too costly for us to cheapen it because we have become comfortable with the message.
Take for example the idea that sin is epidemic. That it somehow courses through our veins like a cancer. A Rabbi over at Aish.com says this about sin: “One of the most commonly mistranslated Hebrew words is chait, which we usually see translated as ‘sin.’” In reality, it is translated into the English as “not reaching a destination”, it has to do with our potential; not being who we were meant to be. There is a tendency to use the phrase “sinners” out of context. Which when stripped of its context it makes all of humanity seem hopeless. And that makes it much easier to point the finger and say, “The devil made me do it.”v
For example, if you interview a thief who has been stealing most of his life, he might tell you it was because, as a child, he never had anything and so he is trying to fill that void. He is blaming his past for who he has become, but ultimately we all are responsible for our decisions. When we blame something else rather than accept our own bad choices, we are essentially saying, “The devil made me do it.”
Sin, in the Hebrew mind, is something that is singular. It is not coursing through our veins like we are sometimes told. It is one act, not a series of acts over time. It is something we chose to be a part of willingly.
Our society, along with television commercials that parade across our screens compel us to get more; that what we have now is not enough. Yet, there are those who are born into the world of “not enough” and we still think it right to desire more and more and more. This desire to want more while others have less is sin. It is something that can be reversed. It is about changing our minds, the same idea behind “repentance.” When Jesus defends the woman caught in adultery and challenges her to “go and (do this) sin no more”, he is essentially saying, “you are above that, you are better than this.” Jesus is encouraging her to live to her full potential.
Life is about grasping the divine commerce that giving is the new receiving. It is in the giving of ourselves that we find who we are meant to be. Jesus said it this way, “If anyone follows me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. Jesus said the way to find ourselves is by giving it all up. And if we follow him, then it becomes about everyone else around us. This focus on us as sinners doesn’t allow much room for others, especially if we are focusing on the part of the story that was never meant to be. It’s a distraction, it’s a roadblock to creating peace with God and each other.
When Paul uses the word “sinner,” he isn’t saying we are low-grade worms. He is saying that there is a way of life, a series of choices that are set before us on a daily basis and that we get a chance to make right choices or choices that destroy our potential and the potential of others. This is good news. This is the peace that passes all understanding. This is the grace that covers all things. And we all get to be a part of it. We all get to share this new way of living.
This new found freedom that finds us in awe of a God who is madly in love with all of his creation.
George loves the outdoors, singing in the shower and doing underwater, synchronized Pilates. He is currently working on a book entitled “Jesus Bootlegged: Recapturing the Stolen Message of Jesus for The World”. You can read more about him at his blog.