Confession #13 [of a prodigal pharisee]

Confession #13:

I sometimes think there are ‘worse’ sins

I think I’m on the up swing of this struggle at the moment.  Mainly because Jesus took one look at this area of my heart and determined to smash it flat in very painful ways.  In fact, it’s a rookie mistake to start this blog with a statement like ‘i’m on the up swing’ since that’s just asking for a pounding.  Not that I can anticipate the discipline of the Lord; I’m just speaking from basic conditioning and experience.  Usually when I think something is going better it’s because it’s going so badly that I’m blind to it, but Lord willing – in this instance it’s because I am celebrating tangible freedom in this area.

Anyway.  I digress.  The heart of this confession is prompted by that thing that happens inside you when you mess up in a really major way and you suddenly panic that this sin is unforgivable.  In that moment the thing that happens inside you testifies that you actually believe this ‘major’ sin is more offensive to God then that moment this morning when you got angry at the driver in front of you or frustrated with the co-worker who asks too many questions.

And this ‘major’ mess up leads to crazy new levels of repentance – the sack cloth and ashes kind because you can’t believe you messed up that badly.  And that level of repentance over that sin reveals something about our hearts that forces this confession (that we think there are ‘worse’ sins).  

Because the problem is not the level of repentance we have when we mess up in the major ways.  In those moments – when God allows us to fail in ways we never thought we would – there’s something gloriously humiliating about the true repentance – the true brokenness produced in our hearts.  The problem isn’t that repentance.  The problem is that we don’t repent with that same brokenness when we experience the less visible and ‘less’ horrible failures.  

Hang with me here.   This confession isn’t angled at reducing the horror of the worse sins.  I’m not trying to minimize the offensiveness of adultery.  I’m trying to slap myself around a little to remember that lustful thought is the same before God.  At the root of adultery is an offense against God and God alone – that we don’t believe or trust what He says to be true.  At the root of a lustful thought is that SAME offense against God and God alone.  

And we can argue over the semantics: there are different consequences and different earthly weights to our sins, but sometimes we have to concede that even the desire to engage that defense inside of us is birthed because we don’t want to admit that we are an adulterer.  I’ll claim anger in my list of sins, but not murder.  We don’t want to concede that we are – and not just metaphorically – the worst of sinners. 

Us pharisees who have good theology may read this and agree that we could be the worst of sinners.  We may agree that we are capable of adultery and murder, but by the grace of God we caught our sin before it got there, right?  So, we have escaped those truly horrific sins.  

I guess that’s just not what Jesus says though.  He has that whole speech about anger being the same as murder and lustful thoughts equalling adultery.  The intent of that sermon was to pop people like me and you – us pharisees – who can say all the right words but can look at the sin of others and really believe deep down that ‘we would never do that’‘.  You would.  Trust me.  There is no sin you wouldn’t do.  But more than that, Jesus is saying in that passage – that you HAVE.  Jesus is saying – the problem with your sin is not just that you would commit adultery, but that you HAVE committed adultery.  Believe it.

Repent for your lust as if you believed the words of Jesus.  Repent for your anger as if you you trusted that the same amount of Jesus’ blood was shed for that sin as for the guy on death row.  Repent as if you understand that there is no hierarchy of guiltiness of sin.  Repent as if your sin was actually against God-  the high and perfect judge, so regardless of who sees or who is affected – your anger is as bad as murder because you have committed the same sin against God – disbelieving Him; rejecting His provision.  Let your judgement on anothers sins be the red flag you need to prompt you to press into this truth.

phew.  because Jesus is teaching me this lesson, I’m not a great friend to have around right now.  My sweet sisters in Christ will come to me and confess some small sin and look to me as if waiting for the ‘well, at least you didn’t…’ and all they get is this truth played out.  They hear something along the lines of: “Far from being excusable and ‘not as bad as…’, that sin actually carries a weight and a gravity that you must attribute to it to truly repent”.  sorry guys.  

But that truth is spoken in love.  Because, the good news of this is that if we press into the truth we are free to trust all the more in the grace of God.  we are free to protect ourselves from complacency with the ‘small’ sins which leads to more sin.  We are free from judging the Ted Haggarts of this world.  We are free to give grace freely – as it’s been given to us.  

Mostly- if you and I really believed our anger was murder – we would be free to look at the Cross and see the love of God in the face of Christ.  We would be free to actually believe that knowing the depths and the evil in our hearts – for the joy set before Him, He rescued us from the guilt and shame of our sin.  There is no sin too large, there is no evil too black to overwhelm the grace of God.

Grace conquers all in Christ.

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