Perfection vs Practicality
Recently, I was thinking about the nature of sin and bringing the questions I had regarding it to Jesus (there were a LOT of questions, as you can imagine).
As we know, as Christians, our lives are not a race to try to be good. It’s about so much more than that – yet it’s so much simpler. Basically, being Christian means Jesus has paid the price for us so that we ARE good. Once and for all. And all we need to do is believe it.
I get that.
What I was struggling with is the fact that Christians still sin, even though we’ve been made good (“righteous” – Rom. 5:11). And when I looked at the sin in my own life – not to mention the massive evil and damage in the world at large – living like righteous people just seemed like too big a project to tackle.
He calmly responded with an image or ‘vision’ (for lack of better phrasing) to help me understand what’s going on.
Before explaining what I saw, some context might be needed. I am something of an activist (when I can be) regarding political and environmental issues. Though I proudly stand for several causes, some common threads between them became apparent to me when contemplating how to combat sin and its effects.
The biggest thing to stand out to me was how culture affects all of these things.
As people who live in developed countries, it can be easy to take what we have for granted because the natural consequences of our actions are not immediately apparent to us. We can get caught up in looking for comfort and forget to be as careful about avoiding needless waste as we would like to be. And it isn’t as if it’s all that hard, either. Yet, if you’re anything like me, the thought can easily slip our minds anyway!
Why is that? From what I can tell, it’s a symptom of living in a society where sustainable living isn’t yet the norm. Not that it’s frowned upon or disliked or anything of the sort, but simply that it isn’t a priority.
Well, it’s the same with sin.
Society sometimes normalises things that shouldn’t be accepted and fears the solutions to fix them. Like how it’s considered embarrassing for men to show emotions, or to seek help with difficult mental or emotional challenges, for example. Or how women are still considered to be less important than men in many cultures worldwide – and get treated accordingly.
The beliefs we are raised with become the lies we stand for if we don’t stop and realise what we are doing. It’s the reason good people can do the wrong things ‘for the right reasons’ without realising it.
Jesus loves us. Deeply and relentlessly, no matter what we’ve gone through or what we have done because he doesn’t blame us for the culture we were born into. Jesus sees the person we are inside, underneath the scars and lies we can collect in life.
What Jesus showed me was the nature of sin as a culture. It isn’t an individual thing, though it affects us all individually. When we sin, we are perpetuating the culture of it in society, but I’m sure you know also that one person alone who does nothing wrong doesn’t mean that sin is now just fixed for everybody else.
If we want a world free from the culture of sin, we have got to approach this like we approach any other revolutionary movement.
We have got to get a lot of people to make a lot of small changes. Because no matter how selfless any one person can be, no matter how much of themselves they give away, that’s just one person. And not everybody is physically able to do that.
Instead of seeing how long we can last being the absolute saint, and “Bible-bashing” others to do the same, what if we started by working towards a place where everybody is just … okay?.
In other words, what if we each focused first on the logs in our own eyes, then helped our brothers and sisters with the specks in theirs? What if we started small, with incremental changes, and let the Holy Spirit take care of the big, weighty, “heart stuff”?
Yes, it might sound counter-intuitive. But just imagine for a second what it would be like to live in that world. Where the worst thing to fear walking alone in the dark is tripping over something. Where, yes, you still have differences with others, and yes, things won’t always be handled well, but everyone would be at least trying their best.
Why can’t we have that? What’s stopping us from making that our tomorrow – or even today?
It can feel daunting to try to change the whole world into this drastically different place. Many wouldn’t even know where to begin! But somehow, this – taking our growth and improvements one small step at a time – seems much more achievable.
The apostle Peter explains it very well in 2 Peter 2:5-8, where he talks about the incremental building of our faith, one virtue at a time:
“So devote yourselves to lavishly supplementing your faith with goodness,
and to goodness add understanding,
and to understanding add the strength of self-control,
and to self-control add patient endurance,
and to patient endurance add godliness,
and to godliness add mercy toward your brothers and sisters,
and to mercy toward others add unending love.”
Since these virtues are already planted deep within, and you possess them in abundant supply, they will keep you from being inactive or fruitless in your pursuit of knowing Jesus Christ more intimately.”
2 Peter 2:5-8 TPT
We start with the faith the Holy Spirit gave us when we first found the grace to be saved.
To that, we add goodness. Then understanding. And so on, one step at a time.
And when we’ve taken that first step as a society, rather than a small group of individuals, I believe that would get the ball rolling to make the next step a little easier.
And Peter points out that the final, end goal of our growing grace and faith is unending love. Love never fails.
TL;DR – Instead of trying to fundamentally change every stranger you see using a small comic-sans flier of paper and a loud voice, try working on creating safe, loving communities instead. Places where people can come and just learn how to be good people together.