That’s right; I said it.
And in the weeks to come we’ll break this down into much smaller pieces. Today, however, is about defining our terms—and our solution. Because no matter where you are in relation to Jesus, “sin” is an ugly word. Just saying the word causes problems, so let’s get on the same page before moving forward.
People define sin any number of ways, even within Christianity, and tend to subject it to their own ideology rather than the other way around. We like to name particular sins and highlight them—especially if they bear no resemblance to ours. Let’s face it: We would much rather confess other people’s sins than confess our own.
For that matter, we often like to draw the line at “well, I thought about it but I didn’t actually do it,” or “but I’m not hurting anyone else.” And sure, it’s better to have not damaged anyone else even as we’re damaging ourselves, even if the damage is “only” on the inside. But look at Jesus’ “but I say to you”s in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-48)—or just read the entire sermon in chapters 5-7. It’s pretty clear that Jesus doesn’t draw a line anywhere. All sin is condemned by God.
I would define it this way, then: Sin is the inability to respond to God. In every form. Totally expressed or barely conceived. Period. Any sins we commit are the result of sin we already have within us. I did not become rebellious; I was born rebellious. And that still gives me no excuse.
And at the same time, each of us is a victim of the sin around us. And not just in vague, general ways, but in specific, lousy and sometimes truly horrific ways. Sin is both within us and around us, and it’s that “around us” that we pick up on and adopt as our own—or respond to by taking judgment out of God’s hands and into our own, or by reveling in our victim status because at least it gives us some kind of identity.
That’s why I need Jesus. The good news of Jesus is not about tolerance of sin, or condemnation of sin, or wiping out my own personal enemies. It’s about victory over sin—starting with me. With you. And it’s a victory we have to receive from Jesus, before we can live it out.
So when we talk about laying down your sin, it’s not just, “Hey you—stop doing things God says are wrong.” That’s part of the package, to be sure, but it’s still only a part. It’s also laying down the sin you want to openly express but don’t. It’s laying down the sin that has been expressed upon you, by others—even the sin that hasn’t been expressed but you know is there. It’s saying Jesus died for all of it, and beginning to live as if that were actually true. Otherwise, perhaps we should just stop wasting our time even pretending to follow Jesus.
“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21, NET).
Because of the hardness of our hearts, we will never totally be immune from the sin around us—or in us. But we no longer need to be slaves to it or victims of it. Jesus calls us to a different life. Let’s start living it. Today.
Lay It Down Today
If you were here a couple weeks ago, you reflected on your “life passage,” as well as a few questions including, “What’s the one thing that most needs transforming in my life—that God wants me to lay down right now?” Let’s take that further.
Identify someone you can share openly about your “one thing” with, and commit to getting with him or her on a weekly basis. It could be someone in your small group, or a friend you can share with and who cares enough to keep you accountable—someone who won’t let you off the hook but won’t judge you either. If you truly don’t know who to turn to, ask God for guidance right now; then, let Him lead you to someone, even if you don’t know him or her well yet. And may God bless and grow your spiritual friendship as you pursue it together.