It’s been just 10 days since the tragic and horrifying events in Aurora, Colorado – seems like longer, especially, I’m sure, to the families still dealing with injuries and loss. I’ve been disappointed by how quickly it became a political issue, with everyone jumping on board their favorite gun control argument with the maximum possible amount of emotion. Brian Ross on ABC wasted no time speculating that the shooter was somehow connected to the Tea Party, an unfounded and irresponsible report that ABC News later apologized for.
I kept thinking that I wanted to write something meaningful – my heart and spirit were so stirred by what was happening and the conversations I saw and heard going on, and I wanted to dig deep and speak truth and do my part to somehow make sense of what had happened. And then Chick-fil-a President Dan Cathy shared his opinions about the biblical definition of marriage in an interview, and all hell broke loose.
And every time I sat down to try and write, all I could come up with is, “Sin kills and destroys.”
Period. Full stop.
All sin kills and destroys. It was sin that killed those people in Aurora, starting with whatever sin twisted and destroyed the mind of James Holmes. It wasn’t the guns he carried, it was the dark conviction that made him believe killing people would resolve whatever tortured process was going on in his heart and mind.
All sin kills and destroys. Not just the sins we’re happy to point out or argue over. All sin. God makes no distinctions – sin is sin. And in case you didn’t know, God is completely crazy in love with people. He hates sin not because he’s a killjoy but because he is passionate about the people it affects.*
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor 6:9-10
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 5:19-21
There are things on that list we’ve all been guilty of. Fits of rage? Check. Jealousy and envy? Check. Idolaters? Check. (And if you think that last one doesn’t apply to you, think about how much how much time and effort you invested in wanting the latest iPhone, or car, or piece of clothing, or jewelry tool that caught your eye. Idolatry is anything that gets in the way of putting God first. Anything.)
“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Cor 6:12
God doesn’t force us to do what’s good for us. We can do whatever we choose to do. But in those cases where we have particular inclinations, we are told that they will not master us. They will not define us, they will not take hold in our lives or take the place of what God has for us – unless we let them. Period.
So do I believe that homosexuality is a sin? Yes. Do I think Dan Cathy’s perspective on marriage as biblically defined is correct? Yes. Do I think guns are to blame for the Aurora killings? No – I think James Holmes and his sin are to blame for that.
But here’s the thing. I have my own sins I’m wrestling with. I say all those things not as judgment from someone who has overcome her own sins but as one who is overcoming and working through them. In my case, my biggest sin issue is my weight (no pun intended) – and all the things that make up that issue will have to be the subject of another post. Suffice to say that my issues with weight began with sin from my childhood – not mine, but the sins of others. And my responses to those things over time were themselves sinful. Sin upon sin upon sin. And I can only address them (and resolve them and heal from them) by walking hand-in-hand with Jesus Christ and letting him peel away – piece by piece – those things the obscure the life and the spirit he intended for me. Any other solution will fail me.
Let me say that again. I am a sinner. And any man-made or socially acceptable or politically correct response or solution to that fact will not help me.
So to all the people who think that a National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (and how I wish I was kidding about that) is a good idea… no. It doesn’t help me and other people who are struggling with their weight to tell us that fat is OK. Do we need to be valued and treated with respect as human beings? Yes. But being fat is not OK, because it’s usually an expression of some other problem – either a physical condition or a spiritual one. And in either case, we need to address the underlying issue. It doesn’t help us to be encouraged to just accept ourselves the way we are.
Among other things about the Aurora shootings, I have been grieving about the inner life of James Holmes – because in the end, it expressed itself in murder and terror. How is it possible that the bright young man with limitless potential pictured in his high school year book photo turned into the red-haired horror plastered all over the news. Those transformations don’t happen overnight.
Sin upon sin upon sin.
And for my homosexual brothers and sisters, I don’t do you any favors by encouraging you to accept yourselves the way you are or endorsing the life choices you make when God has clearly said they are destructive, any more than you help me by telling me obesity doesn’t matter or that I shouldn’t worry about that explosive anger I let loose on someone the other day.
Sin upon sin upon sin.
We are created by God to be in community with one another, because none of us can go this life alone. We are expected to come alongside, to lift one another up, to speak the truth in love, to bear one another’s burdens, to serve others and not ourselves, and to worship the great good God who has great plans for each one of us. Together.
Instead, we are living in a time and a culture that places great value on “tickling our ears” – accepting only those things that make us feel good about ourselves, because self-esteem is the new idol. Truth has become relative, and rather than living in communities of God-seeking individuals who care for and challenge one another, we’ve abdicated our personal responsibility to a government that governs without a moral compass – a government that is, increasingly, demanding adherence to its orthodoxy in ways that should be terrifying.
Sin upon sin upon sin.
So as I have been watching and listening to the news in the last two weeks or so, I have been aware of a deepening sorrow – sorrow for my own sin, sorrow for this fallen world, and sorrow for my lost brothers and sisters who don’t even know how badly they need to be saved. Less than one week after 12 people were murdered in a movie theatre – ONE WEEK! – we became consumed with the personal opinion of a restaurant chain CEO, a professed Christian who expressed his support for the biblical definition of marriage. Whole segments of the population responded with hate and ugliness. And if we weren’t Facebooking and Tweeting about that, we were breathlessly following the latest news about Kristen Stewart’s affair with her married director. (I won’t dignify that with a link.)
Seriously? Where are our priorities?
So in the end, I keep coming back to the undeniable truth that sin kills and destroys. God has a plan to save us from it, though – and while following that plan doesn’t ensure a life free from trouble, it does promise a life equipped to do battle with the darkness. And in the end, we’ll get to spend forever with the one who knows our hearts and loves us anyway.
This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. Eph 6:12-18 (The Message)
* For more on this, I invite you to listen to River City Community Church’s “The Vision” series from January 2012. Pastor Sean Azzaro explains it much, much better than I do!