Thursday, September 17, 2009


Love God and Love People. That is what we are called to do.
Sin rails against both of these. The classical definition of sin says that it is the violation of a moral or religious command. If we're trying to love God, it becomes obvious how violating what He's all about would be problematic.

Sin and people is a little bit murkier, muddier and more painful. There are times when we sin against someone - we gossip, we offend, we abuse. These are painful, but for the most part clean-cut and obvious. Both parties know something wrong happened. One person must repent and one must forgive. Hard but simple.

There are other times when sin tears people apart tangentially. Sin isn't just a wrong. It is a stain and a scar that tears deep into the fabric of our being. It doesn't just harm those we've sinned against, it harms us. We find ourselves guilty. Obviously, painfully guilty. We know that we've messed up someone's life and that just sucks. Even if we go through the divine process of finding forgiveness with God and then the painful process of repentance and seeking forgiveness of those we've wronged we're still left with the lingering, debilitating problem of shame.

Shame tells us not that we've done evil, but that we are evil. Not that we have messed up, but that we are messed up. Not that we've done wrong, but that in some way we ourselves are wrong. We don't measure up, we're not perfect, we're not worthy, we're not good enough,

We can fight these feelings, we can work through them and deal with them, but some part of our psyche makes them nearly impossible to eradicate. When we meet new people, when we are in tough situations, when we are stressed and worried those shame statements come creeping in - they speak up and tell us to run, to hide, to retreat, to embellish, to deflect, to lie. There's no way they will accept you. (Not if they knew.) There's no way they'll understand. (Don't bother trying.) You're not good enough. (Not anymore.) I can't tell them the truth. (That's not what they want to hear.)

These thoughts and feelings push people away from us. They cause us to create masks, false identities that we hide behind as we try to get by. They keep us from letting people truly get close, they keep us isolated and alone - vulnerable and weak. We rely on false intimacy and fake relationships to get through the day while the whole time we are scared that someone will find out and everything will come crashing down around us.

That's not a life, it's a collision course with disaster.

Unfortunately the church not only allows it to happen, we foster it. We put up false fronts and pretend to have it all together. We hide our own warts and imperfections, bury our past sins and smooth over our faults. When someone does have the courage to admit a mistake or more likely when someone's mask falls off we rush to "fix" them, to correct the problem to make everything status quo once again - always teetering on the brink wondering which gust of truth will send things crashing down.

What if we all just admitted we've crashed already? What if we were the place where past failure was a badge of honor, a purple heart that shows where we've come from? What if sinners were more welcome in our midst than Pharisees? What if we loved people the way Jesus did? What if we loved like we've been commanded?

That would be loving God by loving People.

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