Guilt and Hope,Accusation and Redemption, I Corinthians 10:1-13
What are we to think of our tendency to sin? How are we to process that part of us that considers sinful options when they present themselves? What part does sin’s presence in our lives play in our relationship to a loving God? These questions are never unimportant to us, but we do find ways to live with them. Lent calls us to deal with them-to acknowledge, own, and address them. But we do not do so alone. To sin is human tendency, with no exceptions. God is with us; God, in Christ, understands temptation. Even so, sin tends to isolate us.
This passage contains guilt and hope…accusation and redemption. This is Lent in a nutshell.
Sin has consequences. That’s not news, but it may not be our screen saver, either. It is a miscalculation to think that God meets us only on the bright, good deeds, good citizen side of our lives. The darker, sinful side of our lives is something that we get into, experience, and escape on our own. Christ died in order to redeem us from our sin. There is no sadder consequence. But, as redemption pulls us up and out of our sin, we learn about ourselves and our God. We learn how destructive our sin is, and how easily it is entered and painfully exited. We learn sin’s cost and separation. We learn, too, of God’s love for us. We learn of grace and forgiveness-wonderful words with woeful associations.
Paul, the writer of this letter to the church in Corinth, does not want us to be ignorant of what it means to treat sin lightly. We cannot brush off sin’s dust or excuse sin’s little lapses of integrity. Yet, to the extent that sin may be connected to the testing of faithfulness (ours and God’s), God is faithful, and he will not let [us] be tested beyond our strength. God provides a way out so that we can endure sin’s consequences. Jesus took upon himself our humiliation and separation, our shame and guilt.
Lent doesn’t let us forget. More than that, Lent calls us to remember with a sense of weighty gratitude, a sense of responsible forgiveness. There is a way out that is more a way in. This scripture is a reminder that there is a way into life in Christ. The way out of the mess is a way into blessing. The way out of confusing thoughts of testing is a way into a life of trust and obedience. The way out of the darkness is the way into the light of the Lord. But nothing removes the cost. Sin takes us to the cross. The love of Christ moves us beyond the cross, but the cross is in the path, is in the Way. Grief is redeemed into gratitude; guilt is redeemed into grace, futility into purpose, and shame into joy.
These turnings and their cost should keep us from desiring evil. In like manner, they should give us hope that we are not trapped by evil. Our first glimmer of hope can be seen in the fact that evil did not nail Christ to the cross-love did. Our failures did not drag Jesus kicking and screaming to the top of Mt. Calvary; Love walked him up the hill. Theological discussion of testing (God of us, us of Christ) and examples of enduring-these attempts at explaining sin’s encounter with grace finally must bow to the simple but costly scene of sin separating and love reuniting, of God and humanity. Let us not be ignorant of this. To be flippant is to be ignorant. To be dismissive is to be ignorant. To be chained to our failures is also to be ignorant.
God is faithful. This passage ends there. Lent begins there.
Remind us of the weight of sin, and the buoyancy of grace.
A word about the series
The Lenten season has always inspired many people to create everything from poems, art and music to a completely new direction in their lives. This Lenten season Tabernacle will be exploring many of those creations in the hope of inspiring you to compose in a medium that is natural for you. The paintings in the Sanctuary are of the Biblical Stations of the Cross. The artist, Grieg Leach, completed them in 2010. They will help us to visualize the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. In addition to the paintings there is a Lenten devotional booklet, Return to Me, which is available in print or online. The Stations of the Cross also inspired these devotions, written by Terry York of Baylor University. Living with these two bodies of artistic expression based on the Biblical Stations of the Cross throughout the season of Lent should help us as we seek to return our lives to God by walking with Jesus though his final days.
Pray, read, think and return to God.
All scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible.
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