Nobody talks much about sin anymore. If they do, it’s kind of in a joking, dismissive way. It’s almost as if sin is one of those terms left over from the Dark Ages, when people really believed in good and evil, God and Satan. Today we are “enlightened” and, as such, have moved beyond such primitive and superstitious notions.
But, you know, just because someone denies sin or its impact on one’s life doesn’t make it conveniently disappear. If I deny that the earth is round and claim it’s flat, does that make it flat? Hardly.
What is sin anyway? The Bible uses several words when speaking of sin. Two of them convey the thought of ‘missing the mark’ or of being ‘bent’.
What is the ‘mark’ that we supposedly miss? Well, if we go back to Genesis we find the story of Adam and Eve. Everything was perfect in Eden. Man was at peace with God as well as in perfect communion with Him and one another. The goal or the ‘mark’ that God had in mind was that the relationship would stay that way. When Adam and Eve decided to do what they wanted to do instead of what God wanted them to do, they ‘missed the mark.’ Their fellowship with God was broken, their peace with Him was disrupted, and Paradise was lost.
Isaiah (14) and Ezekiel (28) speak of how sin “bends” us. They write of Lucifer, the shining Cherub, who attended the very throne of God. He was a powerful and beautiful creature of God, who, like Michael and Gabriel, was very close to God. But, he allowed his thoughts to wander and imagine that he should be God! The end result was that he was cast from heaven and became Satan—the Adversary of God. Instead of goodness, there was evil; instead of glory, shame; instead of light, darkness. His character, his mind, his very being became ‘bent’ and twisted.
That, in a nutshell, is the problem with sin. It leads us away from God; away from light; away from fellowship with God; away from Paradise. It bends, twists, and deforms our minds and character in such a way that the image of God in us is distorted.
What does all of this have to do with Lent, which we now observe? In fact, most everything. Lent is the time in the Church year when we reflect on our sad spiritual state, which is flawed by sin. Not that we want to have sin in our lives…in truth, we don’t! Sin, however, is a part of our very nature, inherited from Adam and Eve.
Sin is what disrupts the peace we desire with God and our neighbor. Sin is what plagues us and scars our character. During Lent we confess that we are sinners, not by choice, but by nature. We confess that we of ourselves are powerless to overcome it. We cry out to God in Christ and plead, “Save me, O Lord. Lord, have mercy.”
Before spiritual healing comes, there must first come recognition of the illness. Before forgiveness there must first be repentance. Before repentance there must be faith in the One, who will forgive.
If we were left with Lent and nothing more, we would be most miserable. Forty days of Lent is intended to help us see the problem…sin. But, if left with the problem, we would be people without hope. Lent points us to the Great Hope to come…Christ, crucified for our sin and raised for our life.
Let us use these days for deep reflection regarding how we ‘miss the mark’ and are ‘bent’ through sin. And, through it all, let’s keep our eyes on Christ who has restored our communion with the Father through His work on the Cross by destroying the power of sin in our lives. And let us rejoice that Christ is working in us through the Holy Spirit to ‘bend’ us back into the image of God.