The root of the problem

Faith-based post for Sunday. Big idea I’ll try to keep brief.


There are over two hundred types of cancer, says the Cancer Society. Of these dozens upon dozens of ways your own cells rebel in your systems and organs, it’s the same basic problem manifesting itself in different ways. These different cancers require different approaches, treatment regimens, but all have the same desired goal: to stop the cancer, the internal treachery, before it spreads and kills.

There’s a lot of talk in religion over Sin: what is sin? is this or that behavior a sin? is Sin A worse that Sin B? etc, etc, ad nauseum. Now it certainly needs to be addressed; sin doesn’t make you bad – it makes you dead. But the discussion of a problem should never be at the expense of its remedy. Christian faith is the good news about the Remedy, specifically that God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth is the effective, authentic solution to our deepest problem.

and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. “You are witnesses of these things.…” Luke 24:46-48

It seems to me three core theological foundations get lost in the furor of these ‘Sin’ debates.

The first is that we sin because we are sinners. The Spiritual Cancer is in all of us – it just manifests differently. Or to put it another way, our problem with God isn’t so much our Crimes as our Criminal Tendencies.

This is Christianity 101: we are not simply sick or broken; there’s a nasty rebellious streak in all of us. God’s holiness doesn’t demand judgment on merely sick people. That’s tyranny, and God is not the Big Sky Bully. The problem is a willful, selfish aspect to our being that knowingly denies and defies God. The whole ‘Original Sin, Fruit of the Tree, Garden of Eden’ story wasn’t about Satanic deception and arbitrary disobedience; it’s about human beings rejecting God as the final authority on Good and Evil, insisting we know better and are accountable to no one, except perhaps ourselves and only if we want to be.

This brings us to the second issue, the big R-word: Repentance. There’s no Redemption without it because the first step is acknowledging the problem. Repenting or “metanoia” is more that compliance to morality or conformity to dogma; it’s changing your mind about who you are and who God is. It’s allowing God to be God once again. It’s admitting you and I aren’t the center of the universe, we don’t know everything, and that God as Lord, Creator and Savior has the final say over our lives, over what’s Right and Wrong.

The third foundation is people are saved by Who they know, not What they know. I’m all for sound doctrine, apologetics, credible and consistent theology. But directions to the doctor aren’t the same as the doctor. The guardrails and signposts on the narrow road to life are only there to help prevent wrecks and getting lost. Morality stems from what God likes/dislikes, Doctrine from what he said, but Salvation is a Gift from a Person. It’s an ongoing spiritual relationship with a living, resurrected Savior.

These two recent posts
brought this statement to my attention:

MIKE: Loaded question: Do you think it’s possible to believe homosexuality is a sin and still be a “good Christian”?

STEPHANIE: It depends on how you define a “good Christian.” If by it you mean someone who falls in line with what their pastor or denomination says, then yes. If by it you mean someone who engages the teachings of Jesus fully and thoughtfully, then no.

I’m not going to try and understand the logic behind that assertion. It strikes me as a sad and silly statement on many levels. I agree emphatically with Katherine Coble that Christian faith doesn’t rest on my response to another person’s sexual behavior – It’s based on my response to Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible is no more ‘anti-gay’ than it is ‘anti-liar’, ‘anti-adulterer’, ‘anti-greed’, or ‘anti-thief’. Sexual immorality – of which homosexuality is one type – is clearly stated, numerous times, as symptomatic of Mankind’s isolated, broken and defiant nature.

I’m aware it’s not currently popular to say that, but see the ‘Repentance’ part above. I don’t get to say what’s right and wrong. But I also reject the fear and hate mongering against people who deal with that particular sin. God loves people and offers forgiveness, redemption and transformation to anyone who comes to Him.

I’ll end with this remarkable testimony. Have a good week.

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