Sunday, May 04, 2008

All We Talk About is Sin

Sorry, back-to-back child stories. But often children help us become aware of spiritual realities that we're too set in our ways to notice on our own.

This week, Jaron had a substitute teacher. One day, he came home and said that he thought the substitute was a Christian. When my wife asked him why, he said that they were all trying to think of words that contained the "in" sound. His teacher suggested the word "sin", therefore she must be a Christian.

I find it deeply disturbing that my five year old son has already noticed that a fascination with sin is the mark of a Christian. This is clearly not the kind of abundant life that Jesus talks about. What about becoming a new creation - the old is gone, the new has come? What about no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? What about loving your neighbor as yourself? Why doesn't he recognize those things as the marks of a Christian?

Maybe it's because I'm not all that great of a new creation, so certainly I get some of the credit (blame?). But I think that the problem is bigger than that. I think that we so often forget that we don't have to be stuck in that place of guilt and shame. We can become something new, where we are defined by the good that is within us and that works through us rather than by the evil that still haunts us.

Dallas Willard coined the phrase "the gospel of sin management" as the predominant approach to discipleship in the church [The Divine Conspiracy]. In this perspective, our whole goal is to control our depravity to manageable levels, just trying to survive long enough to make it to heaven mostly in one piece. As a result, discipleship is generally about not doing certain things - sin avoidance. Willard suggests that discipleship should instead be about kingdom advancement (my words) - living out our relationship with God, focusing on the positive, living as new creatures, creating new habits that reflect the glory of our Creator.

I would love it if someday my son would say something like, "That person just did something very kind and loving. I bet that she's a Christian." Wouldn't it be great if that was our lived out message in the world?


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