Friday, April 08, 2005

Clean From Sin?

I was just talking about a Christian's relationship to sin with Prime Minister of Toast last week, and now Doug van Pelt of HM Magazine has a great post. Go read it all, but here's a quote:

Chapter 23 finds Job in the midst of his long ordeal. He describes his complaint as "bitter." It seems as if he feels that God is distant or not answering his prayers. He wishes, "If only I knew where to find Him...I would state my case before Him..." Job is confident that if and when he is tested before the Lord, that he will come out clean.

I believe this is a confidence that we can have. Yes, I know that some believers have crafted a theology that allows them to wallow in their sin. I think that to be heresy. Yes, it is true that sin goes deeper than behavior. I think Jesus made that obvious with His great Sermon on the Mount. But, for instance, we can keep ourselves "clean."

Any thoughts? Can we as Christians be clean of sin on earth? Is it pride to consider ourselves free of sin through Christ? Is it self-centered to focus on our own flaws when there are so many people needing to hear the truth? Which is more important, righteousness or compassion? Is this a false dichotomy?

There are two extremes, both of which come from the same source. The first extreme is that of legalism in its many forms. Legalists may be Pharisaical, and be conceitedly proud of their own sinlessness in comparison to others. On the other hand, some legalists are all too aware of their own sins, and are constantly working, unsuccessfully fighting their own sinful nature.

The other extreme is a modern (or perhaps post-modern) reaction to this legalism. It's more insidious than legalism, and I think has really grown in my generation. This is the idea that we're all sinners, but in the grand scheme of things the sin doesn't matter. Since we're powerless to fight our sin, we should simply accept our flaws, move on, and focus on love and unity and being Christ to others. But they fail to realize that righteousness is an essential trait of compassion and Christ-imitation -- that our relationship with God is directly affected by our sin. I'm not sure what this position is called, and I know this term will carry the wrong connotations, but for lack of a better word I'll call it Libertism.

What both of these positions ignore is that we can be free of sin -- through Christ. Legalism denies that Christ brings freedom from sin on earth. Libertism denies that Christ brings freedom from sin on earth. I think this denial, on both sides, is doing more to hurt Christ's work here in America than anything else.


Prime Minister of Toast said...

As with most things in Christianity there is a balance, one that is usually made blurry and hard to see because of the extreme views to the left and right of the issue (not political left and right...) I have more to say but need to get to class!

Matt said...

Aye, 'tis a fine balancing act...

Those who are in Christ are "a new creation." Chistians are, as Paul writes, no longer slaves to sin (or the flesh), but are slaves to righteousness. If I'm no longer a slave to sin, then the positive way to look at that is to say I'm free of and from sin.

However, Christians are also called to crucify the flesh daily and put away sinful thoughts, desires, etc.,

I haven't read Pelt's article yet, but I'm astounded that Job, a non-Israelite, knew enough of Israel's God to be able to say "I know my redeemer lives, and in the end he shall stand upon the earth." Even Job looked forward to the redemptive work of God. I think Job knew that he was guiltess before God, but not on his on behalf, someone had to take his guilt away.

By all means, Christ has freed us from the eternal consequence of sin i.e.; seperation from God. However, because we still live on a fallen earth, we still have to deal with the temporal consequences of sin, even after coming to faith in Christ. For example, if I get caught speeding (disobeying the authority over me) then I'll get a ticket (deal with the consequence of my disobedience.)

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