Monday, May 14, 2007

pain of sin

I was talking to a friend the other day who is a part of a recovery ministry. He was in a small group the other day that discussed the roots of sin. From the perspective of that ministry, here is how sin is born much of the time:

1. We experience some kind of pain on our lives.
2. We feel a sense of shame from that pain
3. We search out and find a "false comfort" to deal with the shame and pain.
4. False comfort comes in the form of some kind of sin or some kind of "good works"
5. We begin to experience a "numbness" from the habitual false comfort
6. We begin to find ourselfs alone. Our numbness has pushed people away.
7. Our loneliness sharpens the feeling of the original pain.
8. The cycle continues.

This kind of thinking makes sense to me. It is the kind of thing I bet Jesus saw. He was good at hanging out with "sinners" because he understood the root cause of sin. He knew that underneath the garments of an unholy life was the pain of a heart ripped open. He knew that sin was just harmful attempt to heal.

He saw the same thing in the Pharisees. He knew their self-glorifying "righteousness" was yet another attempt to hide. It was just another attempt to heal. So why was Jesus so much harsher toward the Pharisees than he was toward "sinners and tax-collectors."

My guess is that the "sinners" saw their unholy state of life and grieved it. The Pharisees flaunted their state of life and used their status to magnify their pride and arrogance. "Sinners" were teachable. "Sinners" knew they were needy. Pharisees pretended. They saw themselves as the teachers. They saw others as the ones in need of correction and healing.

I wonder what would change in our own hearts if we began to see the root of sin as pain. And maybe the root of all pain is the pain we all experience as humans. Maybe the pain beneath all other pains is the pain of being separated from God. It is the pain of living outside the Kingdom of God and longing to come in.


At 9:55 AM, Blogger ecclesia said...

I've been spending some time in the Word today about this particular topic, that being sin. Actually I've been doing this for a while now, trying to understand the impact of the cross. What I've come to learn is that we are born conditioned to sin. I can look back at times in my life and say that pain led me to sin, but I can't say that about everything in my life. Many times too, I was just simply tempted by my own selfish desires. Maybe I just wanted to be popular and I wanted attention from everyone because I could make people laugh when I drank. Jesus didn't give me enough attention from my friends. I wanted to be the center of attention.

If you look at my life now, it's much the opposite. I'm definitely more quiet and reserved than I used to be. Eve was simply tempted into sin by Satan and Adam followed right behind her. Satan was evil and caused Adam and Eve to do evil and from there the story begins.

The Israelites time and time again did evil in God's eyes. God was angry. In the OT, you constantly see God's wrath. He still saved his people. Throughout that history, we also see where the Isrealites were repentant. They didn't make excuses. They simply confessed their evilness and repented (turned away from their sin).

Which brings us to why we need a Savior. Jesus is saving us from condemnation, God's wrath. Those living according to the flesh, have already been judged. It's not our job to judge because they don't know better. It is our job as believers to share Christ's love, so that they do know the importance of having Christ in their lives.

As believers, we are no longer called sinners, we are called saints. We are no longer judged by the law, for the law is "written on our hearts." It's our conscience, it's God. As believers, we do know better. We still stumble, but we know better. But we humbly admit and "go and sin no more."

I believe, simply put, the root of sin, is who we are in the flesh, every single one of us. Romans 2 tells us that there is "no one that is righteous, not even one." Paul shows us the evilness that lurks in us throughout Romans. However, there is a light at the end of that tunnel. If we can humbly get down on our knees and admit that we are unclean, that we are impure, that we are nothing apart from Christ, then we can come to understand the beauty of what Christ did on the cross. We come to the foot of the cross, broken, realizing this life has nothing to offer and Jesus heals us of the flesh and offers us life through His Spirit.

But there's still more. We have a job to do. If we are going to live by the Spirit, we are to "fully" submit ourselves to Christ. We open our arms and stretch out our hands, or we just get down on our knees and say, "Lord, I can't." That's where God wants us. He is our strength when we are weak. He is the ONLY way we CAN!

Now, does that mean we are perfect, not at all, but we are being perfected. In Romans it talks about the how the flesh is battling the Spirit. Every day we are fighting against our flesh, but the Lord has given us the power to do that. In Christ, we can overcome evil.

Now, I'm still working some of this out in my mind and in my heart, but this is all I've been learning the last few months.

It's about realizing our condition and NEED for a Savior. Mark, I don't even know if I'm agreeing or disagreeing with what you are saying, this just all came to mind.

I guess this is just one of those topics that can't be taught in a few minutes of typing on a blog. I, myself, still haven't come to a full understanding of sin and what happened on that cross. I guess it's all part of the maturing process, but I'm slowly understanding the reality of the cross and what that means in my life. It's simply a work the HOly Spirit has to do in each and every one of our lives.

At 12:17 AM, Blogger Mark said...

ecclesia wrote: "What I've come to learn is that we are born conditioned to sin."

St. Augustine came up with this doctrine in the 5th century A.D. and theologians usually call it "original sin." Many Christians before this didn't believe we were born "conditioned to sin."

Calvin and Luther picked up this same idea of "original sin" and added the idea of "total depravity" to it in the Protestant Reformation. Other Protestants disagreed with it and sided more with a guy named Arminius. Arminius had a similar theology to a popular Catholic reformer named Erasmus.

They believed that while humanity was damaged in "The Fall", we were still created in God's image. They rejected the idea of "total depravity" which stated that because of the Fall, humanity could do nothing that was good on their own apart from saving grace.

Arminius and Erasmus believed the sin of humanity was not powerful enough to fully and completely ruin the fact that God created us in His image. For them, believing in "total depravity" was giving too much credit to the power of human sin and not enough credit to the power of God's creative act.

That means they believed there is still good in humanity because God put it there, but that good has been severely damaged by sin. And so God's prevenient grace enables even a non-believer to do good.

I think we see evidence of this every time we see a non-believer who is a mother loving her children. We see this when we see athiests helping the poor. We see it when agnostics give to their local PTA.

Like I said in my post. I don't think we can say that all sin is from pain. But I do think many habitual sins are.

Just some theology for ya to chew on a bit.

At 10:33 PM, Blogger ecclesia said...

I stand corrected. I am rather interested in church history to hear how these "ideas" came about. As you know, I've been doing some study on the Early Church Fathers. Now looking back on my comment, I see what I said. I have been doing a series with a friend of mine and they talk a lot about sin. We haven't gone through the whole thing yet, however he gave us a list of Scriptures describing our lives before Christ and once we're in Christ. Now, in the "old self," I was condemned (Rom 6:23), I was a sinner (Rom 5:8), I was guilty (Isa 24:6), I was by nature a child of wrath (Eph 2:3), and the list keeps going, however there was a hope and that was Christ on the cross and with that belief in my "new self," I am justified and redeemed (Rom 3:24), my hardened mind is removed (2 Cor 3:14), I am sealed in the Spirit (Eph 1:13), I am complete (Col 2:10), and the list keeps going even further than the last.

But I do agree with you that even though we are "sinful creatures" just simply by chance of The Fall, even unbelievers can do good things because we are created in God's image. I guess maybe what I was trying to say, which now I'm seeing probably wasn't even relevant to your post was how God sees us (though he still loves us very much and hopes we follow Him) before we follow Him, and then how He sees us after we choose to follow Him.

Anyways, thanks for pointing that out. I always love to see how these concepts relate in church history.

At 8:20 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Let me recommend a great book to get the full picture of church history and historical theology. I went through it in seminary and then I took Tronster, Scott Jenkins and Aaron Arpasi through it in a Learning Cluster.

The book is called, "The Story of Christian Theology" and its by Roger Olson. Its a big book but is worth the read. It helps you get a full picture of the history of theology.

For reference sake, if you ever just wanted to look up a prominent figure in church history, I suggest the 2 volume set of "The Story of Christianity" by Justo Gonzalez. He covers more history and less theology than Olson. But its still good for reference when you want to study a particular person in church history.

I have all of these aforementioned books. Scott has Olson's book as well. Let us know if you want to borrow them.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger ecclesia said...

Thanks for the book suggestions, I'd love to look into some of them once I'm finished with the McLaren books. I had some other questions, but I'll save them for another time!

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Jeff Mount said...


One of the things I've learned the hard way about this cycle is that I often cannot see the pain that has caused my desire for sin. It takes most people years of searching to uncover the various wounds they've received, and how that has negatively affected their ability to receive love, grace, acceptance-all the things that appropriately fill the void that is oftentimes filled with sin instead.

I'm not saying that every single wrongdoing is caused by pain-the danger of this model is that, since it starts with pain received, one can often make the mistake of blaming one's own sins on someone else.

But Mark only posted the first half of the cycle. The second half, instead of running to false comfort, one runs instead to God and to healthy relationships with others. That allows a person time, space, and permission to accept the pain, grieve the pain, and move toward reconnecting with God and otheres. That reconnection is the essence of the life which God intends for us. I don't know for sure, but I think it's helpful to see the first cycle in light of the second.

I do know that I have experienced tremendous healing by looking at how I have had pain in my life, and I sought to handle that pain by running to sin. It's often so obvious now, i can't believe I missed it for so many years.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Jeff Mount said...

By the way, Mark-I like the connection you made with the Pharisees, versus Jesus being able to be around people because he knew what the root of their sin was. That explains a lot of the negative connotations people have about church.


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