As I have studied recently, one thing in my walk with God that I have begun to see more crisply is the degree to which sin has devastated all things. It is a deep and vicious cancer, an inescapable disorder, a deathly disease that has afflicted the best and worst of us alike. We are strangely victims of it and perpetrators of it. If you will walk with Christian theology for a moment and consider the idea of "the devil" deceiving mankind into choosing themselves over God, think about it as an act of sabotage, a definitive war move, an attack. And if you imagine the worst of human atrocities, the depth of human sorrow, every hateful act that has unfurled since the beginning of time, does it make you angry that such a reality was sought after, hoped for, and worked for by an enemy that hates us only second to his hate for God? It should. And it should hopefully give you a clearer picture of Satan than some harmless pitchfork-bearing creature in spandex.
That doesn't put us off the hook though. We, too, have bought into sin. We have bought into the repetitive and cyclic lie that we are the most important thing in our lives. We continue to reach out for the forbidden fruit. There is blood on our hands, on the blades of our speech, in our actions and our lack of action. There is no avoiding that we are sinful, broken, hurting and hurtful beings. So yes, we are victims of sin in that we have a very real enemy who has the worst for us, but we are also perpetrators of the system we have been born into as we continue to deny and reject God for our own physical, emotional, or intellectual pleasure.
I have thoroughly enjoyed Timothy Keller's description of forgiveness, because it acknowledges that the cost of any wrongdoing must be born by someone. He uses the example that if somebody drove their car through your fence, someone - whether you or the driver - would have to bear the cost of fixing the wall. Remember in economics class when you learned that there is no such thing as a free lunch? I'm afraid this is a very deep spiritual concept as well. To make something right, someone must pay. And that goes for economical costs, emotional costs, physical costs - all cost.
People often ask why Jesus had to die - why can't God just forgive everyone? Doesn't this make him so vengeful and cruel? But think about the wall example. You can forgive the person who drove through your wall, but that means that you instead of they will pay for the wall's repair. Someone has to pay. Now think of the deep and horrendous cost of sin, a cost that not you, not I, no man or woman that has ever lived can bear. That is, except for Jesus Christ. We are marred, broken, sopping wet in the despair of our actual spiritual condition: that we are sinners, trapped and confined and yet equally trapping and confining. We are guilty, we are hopeless. We hurt one another, we scorn being hurt. All for sin. And that is a tremendous cost. A cost that Jesus, to rescue us, bore.
There is a deep beauty in this reality. Sobering, certainly, but releasing. Think about suffering. We often throw the suffering of ourselves or others in the face of God and say, How can you exist? How can you be good? I contend that we misunderstand that we suffer because we still live in a system that is ruled by sin. Sin, even when we are saved by Jesus, is still part of our bodies, our minds, our very hearts. By his death and resurrection on the cross, Jesus abolished sin's hold on us. But we live the rest of our lives letting him teach us to release our hold on it. And in any system where sin - where self - prevails, so will pain, suffering, and hardship.
An anonymous woman is quoted by Timothy Keller as saying,
If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with "rights" - I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if I am a sinner saved by sheer grace - then there's nothing he cannot ask of me.
Does that quote scare you? Rub you the wrong way? The truth is, bad things happen. We live in a fallen system, and it's going to hurt. This does not change the sovereignty of God. And when we choose to throw ourselves on the grace of Christ, when we accept the beauty of his sacrifice, this is freedom and liberty for our hearts, but we cannot expect to suffer less because of it. If anything, sometimes our greatest deepest liberty and freedom is found in very trying circumstances. And these circumstances may come about from sin, from a sad and at times harrowing reality of the world, but God still brings the best out of it. Or sometimes he asks us to go places where we will rub very painfully against a world that wants nothing to do with him. But God is still good, and He is on a rescue mission to save the world.
(I have so much more to say about this! But this is a good stopping point for today.)
On a less heavy note, here are some pictures of the colors in Tucson. :)