I’m going to discuss the topic that no one really likes to talk about – sin. It seems that we avoid talking about sin or we joke about it or we inflate it (like, “Oh, I’m the worst sinner in the world!”), but very rarely do we really confront it. And yet, nothing keeps us from doing the will of God or from the tremendous blessings of Christ’s abundant life than sin.
The book of Judges gives us tremendous insight into sin and our human nature. If it weren’t so terribly tragic, it would be kind of funny to see how Israel constantly gets caught in the “spin cycle” of sin – kind of like watching Sponge Bob Square Pants making the same mistake over and over again. Israel sins, they turn away from God, they experience the troubles, they cry out to God, God saves them, and then they sin again – and the whole process starts over again … and again, and again. The real tragedy is that Israel never saw what their sin was. They might have thought it was something specific (like idol worship or disobeying laws), but it goes much deeper than that. The writer of Judges explains the problem succinctly in the last verse of the book: “Everyone did as he saw fit.” The RSV puts it this way: “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
That is the root of sin: doing what we think is right in our own eyes. We often think of sin in terms of the “outward” activity or expression: lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, lust, greed, speaking bad things, doing bad things, thinking bad things, etc. But the root of sin is actually behind the actions or attitudes. It is wanting to do things our own way, it is wanting to do what we think is right in our own eyes. By doing this, we circumvent around doing what is right in God’s eyes! If we think it is OK to fudge a little on our income tax report, we will do it without remorse. If we think it is OK to be choosy about whom we love, we will justify our snobbery. If we think it is OK to complain about others behind their backs, we will gossip without any hint of guilt.
Try this exercise: think about all the sins you committed in the last 24 hours (Be honest now!)
If you are like me, your list is probably pretty short. I often grapple with my short list, thinking, “There’s got to be more than that!” But the reason why our list is short is because we view sin by “what is right in our own eyes.” After all, it can’t be wrong, when I think it’s right!
It’s because of this thinking that many struggle with how Paul could write Romans 7. After all, Paul is the great apostle. How could he struggle so with sin? Some have rationalized that Paul was making a hypothetical argument; that he wasn’t really dealing with his own situation. However, I believe that Paul had a healthier perspective on his sin than the rest of us. He wasn’t looking at his sin through the lens of what was right in his eyes. Rather, he understood his sin through what was right in the eyes of Christ.
Too many of us (myself including) are living in denial of those things that are robbing our abundant life. We forever justify the things that make us small in heart, addicted, calloused, fearful, self-righteous, bitter, prejudiced, apathetic, dark and cold. This perhaps explains why the church of today seems so lacking in transformation: too many Christians live in terms of what is right in their own eyes! So the people of the world see nothing different between them and those who claim faith. Perhaps the lack of evangelism by the church is not just our lack of boldness to share the faith. Perhaps the problem is that we aren’t allowing God’s light shine in us (and reveal our sin). How can Christ shine through us, if we don’t allow Him to shine in us first?
If we are willing to admit that we are living our lives according to what we think is right in our eyes, then we are at the place where Jesus can begin His transforming work in us. I encourage you to ask God to search your heart and allow His Spirit to reveal the sin within (Ps. 139:23-24). This is the power behind the spiritual discipline of examen. It’s not just about examining our lives to see if we have committed any sin. We, in our own eyes, cannot see the roots of our sin. True examination asks God to reveal our sin to us. Then we can confess the real sin that hinders to God and experience the true transformation that comes from being made right from the depth of our being.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.