Part Four: Sin Happens

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This ‘18-‘19 series is my way of celebrating some of my deepest values leading up to my 50th birthday next spring. The fall series features four “concessions” on life’s downers; winter/spring features “confessions” that drive who I am.

If you’ve been following my fall series, you know that I’ve written many words lamenting the aging process, the brevity of life, and life’s myriad disappointments, both self-inflicted and caused by others. This Advent season entry wraps up the root cause of all three major problems: sin.

We fail each other, we grow old, and we die ultimately because of humanity’s sin, both Original and Individual. Even “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22) as it’s under a curse because of sin (“…cursed is the ground because of you…” Gen. 3:17b). Against whom have we sinned? Against God, our Creator. The result? Fallen people, fallen world, fallen physical Earth, fallen cosmos. Advent (and Christmas) is all about God redeeming humanity’s sin through the birth and eventual death and resurrection of Jesus.

Before I lose some readers by delving too deeply into theology, I’ll simply assert that I disagree with many modern thinkers (both religious and secular) who claim that “man is basically good.” On the contrary, my whole life, for one, is evidence that apart from God I can do nothing good (see John 15:5). Worse, my thoughts and actions naturally tend toward decay rather than development. Multiply the empirical evidence of my own sinful tendencies by approximately 7.7 billion people alive right now on Earth, and the enormity of our shared problem is overwhelming.

Let it be known yet again that for all of my imparted life lessons, mentorship relationships, and confidence as a role model for children and youth, I am not any sort of source of wisdom and goodness. My life and career mission is to point others toward the Source, Solution and Savior in dealing with that ugly, destructive “s” word, Sin. Such convictions make me more empathetic, not more judgmental, toward those whom I lead and mentor. This compassion is held in tension with 1 John 3:4: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” Occasional slip-ups (sins) of dishonesty, foul language, outbursts of anger and ill-treatment of others among our Jugheads can be and are used as teachable moments, including extending grace to them (more on that next month). However, if a member habitually steals, lies, curses, bullies, etc., that is “lawlessness” and taints the other members’ experiences and possibly even their safety and well-being. Codes of Conduct and even technical juggling Standards are like fences that keep us from wandering, and we need such guidance lest we wander at all times.

In contrast to practicing sin, the Prophet Daniel put it this way to the great King Nebuchadnezzar: “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed.” (Daniel 4:27) A year later, Nebuchadnezzar committed one of the most egregious sins—pride—by taking credit for his successful kingdom. After being humbled by the LORD for an extended period of time, his first act of righteousness was to give credit to Whom credit was due both for His everlasting kingdom and for the restoration of his position in his earthly kingdom.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 3:23, 7:24) I’ll focus on that amazing topic next month, fittingly right after “the holiday season.” Sin happens, but grace happens more abundantly for those who have ears to hear and hearts to follow the Good Shepherd.