The Question of Sin

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

I received in my letterbox a small A5 folded photocopied pamphlet from my local Assembly of God the other day. On the outside it says: "Jesus Christ. He is Your Answer."

On the inside it proceeds to tell me that He is the answer to the problem of my sin. Here is part of how it details this problem:
The Problem - Everyone is in the Same Position - Separated From God

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

God created us so that we can live with Him for ever, but because we inherit sin we are separated from God. We then accidentally or deliberately commit sins, and these form a cloud between us and God. We break God's laws and fall short of His standards ... we are sinners by nature, by practice and by choice.

God's Answer

What we couldn't do - God did, by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on a cross for all mankind. He laid down His life to become the Bridge between God and us. "For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own effort but God's gift so that no one can boast about it" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

On the back is a very helpful little indication of what you must do to get out of this quandary. You cannot do it yourself, but you must go the way God has provided, by repentance, turning to God so our sins may be wiped out, and by faith in Jesus Christ.
If I don't cross the bridge I am separated from God for ever - that is HELL. But if I change my direction and trust in Christ I will be with God forever - that is HEAVEN. Is there any good reason why you should not do this now?

How?

- Admit your need - "I am a sinner"
- With God's help turn from your sin
- Believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save you.
It then offers a little prayer that you can pray that "may help you to make a definite act of commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ."

Yawn. How boring as batshit is all of that? It all feels so commodified - everything. God the slot machine who needs the prayer of repentence. Even sin as a commodity. It would be interesting to see how I would react to this leaflet if I was not a believer. It all seems so deathly dull.

The way I came to belief was when I picked up a Bible one time while I was house-sitting for my parents. I was 22 years old, a seeker, always a seeker. I wanted to know what the truth was and I wanted to follow it. That desire has never left me. I read some of the book of Genesis while at my parents' place and, if memory serves me correctly, some of the book of Isaiah also (one of my favourite books of the bible). It was all weird and a bit freaky and cool in its poetry and there was a certain sort of indefinable something that captured my interest somehow.

Mum and Dad's next door neighbours were Christians and so I went in there one day that week and we talked. And I just had this ... feeling about this Jesus. There was a certain sort of a captivation there, an intrigue. Something in me was drawn to this ... presence, this essence, a strange tug. I remember Paul and Laurene asking me if I wanted to pray, and Laurene saying to Paul, "I think we'll have to do it for her. Look at her." And it was true. I felt gill green. I felt this horrible sort of evil descending around me. I don't know if it felt like something outside of me or inside of me or both. I had had some experience with the occult in the past. I had conducted seances in my bedroom where the temperature had unexplainedly dropped to freezing and the smell of a million disgusting farts filled the air and so I guess it didn't seem all that unfeasible to me that there could be some sort of personification of evil out there. I was, after all, leaning toward some man who had lived 2000 years ago who apparently rose from the dead, so I guess throwing some dastardly demons in there as well was just going the whole hog.

I do not remember what I was feeling or thinking except sort of nauseous, and sort of creeped, and sort of like I wanted to get the hell out of there and go and screw my brains out with a stranger and suck on a bong 17 or 93 times in a row to get away from that horrible feeling.

And so Paul and Laurene prayed for me. And then a few days later I was talking to my friend Debbie on the phone and saying, "Hey, how weird is this. I've been reading the Bible." And we laughed at how moronic I was and then Deb mentioned that a requirement for getting her young daughter baptised at the local church was a Christianity Explained course and did I want to come along?

And so I did, and I remember us most likely giving poor old Lynette, the minister's wife, grief because you know me, always liking to shock. But she loved us. And I remember coming across diagrams such as the one contained in the leaflet in front of me which show our separation from God with the cross being the bridge between us and a holy God and blah blah blah and I say blah blah blah not because I don't think it's the most amazing thing ever that God has breached the gap in the way that I still 17 years later believe that he has, but because I think we got it round the wrong way.

This leaflet seems to preach to me that the cross is something that is required for God. But God does not require anything to love us. S/he does because that is what God does. The separation is on our side, like the guilt, and the distortion, and the shame. All on our side. God did not need to wipe our sin away because it was something that got in his way but because it gets in ours. It distorts absolutely everything. It ruins and smears and besmirches and deadens and numbs and we choose death instead of life and we believe good is bad and bad is good and on and on and you know the score cos you live it every day. And knowing that in some weird cosmic way all of that just doesn't matter on some level, doesn't even exist because this is part of what Christ accomplished ... well, those fields you can play in and stuff sparkles in there and you get a bit childlike and relaxed and then we're sort of starting to get somewhere.

I think even back then at the very beginning I had glimpses of the grace. It permeates. I had glimpses of this presence, of this God. I felt it in awful sinful places like at the bottom of a bong. I felt it in the laughs with my friends and family, in the connection that lies between everything, the threads of which even back as a 22 year old and earlier I would pick up on for a glimmer of a second and it would fill me with joy. And so even then I think I got an idea that there was something slightly wrong somewhere even though I could not explain it or articulate it (and still find it difficult sometimes). These pissy little outpourings of empire religion somehow are able to make sows ears out of silk persons, make running to God smell about as palatable as freshly brewed dog poo, as exciting as doing your tax return - little formulas to be worked, the paradigm of which geared everyone up to go careening into the AOG performing their egoes off because even though Jesus the good guy has come along and done what he's done, it's hard to forget about God the bad guy, the oh so holy one who is so perturbed by our sin that he can't bear to look upon it in his pissy little God psyche ... even though Jesus Christ had taken it all away, even the sins of the whole world.

And God has been breathing his life into me and us in all that time and never once have I felt like he has given up on me, not even after all those sins I was committing and going to church stoned one night so I felt ashamed afterwards, and marrying someone who did not believe because I thought it wouldn't matter and that God was holding out on me when he said, "Not this way. Don't go this way" because I had learned to hold out on myself and so I thought he would do the same.

Like a thread of goo runs throughout the whole human psyche the concept that God is holding out on us and he is a mean-spirited bastard and all the other things you and I think that have been a part of the deconstruction that has been going on in this Body in the past 20 years with everything being shaken that could be shaken and our conceptions redefined on what justice and love and worship and being the church and everything else looks like. It is quite amazing that we look through lenses that are sort of warped somehow, unintentionally. He is just so different to us. We need to be taught all over again everything, really. And we suffer and we see in the dark and it is true that the times that I cry out the most and cry for the feel of his hand on my shoulder and he doesn't answer make me dislike him - and I don't know the answers to why that happens but it does not make me think he has got up and walked away and left me when those things do happen.

It amazes me how all the way through, down in my soul, harboured there the way Mary did all those things in her heart, the feeling that somehow things as I was seeing them and as I was being told were all skew whiff and somehow I was safe and somehow I could trust what my heart was saying about God being bigger than the story that was being told me, that this whole story was a thing of great and amazing beauty that I would one day feel proud to proclaim from the rooftops even though then I wouldn't go out and witness even if a gun was held to my head because I was ashamed of that gospel. And I still am.

Because the good news isn't that a holy God has deigned to thrust his son into the firing line while he sits far away. The good news is that that is a bullshit construct out of human minds, and the good news is sin shall not be the last word, and the good news is that he loves me and the kingdom of heaven is near.

8 comments

  1. Haha! Sue, I think we're all on the same page here lately! Buddy of mine made a similar post on his blog and I had a talk last week with a friend similar to this and posted about that on mine. I think God's trying to make a point, teehee!

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  2. what a story you have to share!
    written with touches of Anne Lammot'ness :)

    grabs you by the guts
    real, gritty, challenging
    the stuff good writers are made of dear girl . . .

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  3. You didn't have something to say there, did you? :)

    I love it when you so personify this grace in such a non-religious way.

    Big old meanie God was owed a debt and, well, SOMEone had to pay it, right? With interest!

    The wrong way around, indeed.

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  4. Funny - about Isaiah being one of your favorite books. I was researching something for church, and I found a website, World Scripture. It gave me the text I was studying in Isaiah and then similar "scripture" or teachings from other religions. It was mind boggling that they were almost identical. It was a cathartic, rip your clothes, sit in ashes experience. My exclusive Christianity was rubble around my feet. I felt like I was left with nothing. But slowly, I have picked up salvageable pieces and found they are not wrong, I am just more right than I have ever been. I wrote this not long afterwards



    What if

    When I ask Him

    To come into my heart,

    He says He is already

    There

    Jo

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  5. Sabre - that was funny. On the same page at the same time definitely :)

    Kel - thank you very muchly *warms with pleasure*

    Erin - it was an impossibly long post, I have to say. SO the wrong way round - like I was saying to someone before, I guess at the very least the crud way Christianity has panned itself out can teach us a bit about our propensities, our distortions - not a pleasant trip but at least we can know that about ourselves I guess *blerk*

    Jo - ooooh, I LOVE what you wrote. Yes, what if? So many what ifs start bubbling up when we get to a certain part in our journeys where we're willing to let go of needing the answers ... or if they get ripped away from us haha. It's so much more wonderful sitting a little more empty handed than I used to be - so many paradoxes in this spiritual life :)

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  6. "All on our side. God did not need to wipe our sin away because it was something that got in his way but because it gets in ours."

    Yes! Absolutely! Didin't Sister Julian say so?

    I must speak up for batshit, however. Not boring. Not remotely boring. Full of the most fascinating bits of bugs - you can tell loads about the local ecosystem, not to mention the foraging habits of the bats themselves, from a good pile of batshit. (Of course you might have been referring to your great big Aussie fruit bats' shit - in which case it probably is pretty yawn-inducing.)

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  7. Mike - She did say so. It has me amazed and muddled sometimes, the way things be, that we can swim in the small pool of Phariseeism, which is where we all find ourselves at some point in our journey. Some have the guts to swim on further and find Rumi's field :)

    LOL. You're a real franciscan aren't you, loving not only the bat but its shit :)

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  8. Apologies for my awful spelling there, Sue. I don't really think "did not" is abbreviated "Didin't" ;-)

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