Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Sin Makes You Stupid
When the Bible uses the term “sin,” it isn’t just talking about people misbehaving. Sin is a bigger, darker concept than just the idea of being naughty. Sin is an orientation away from God—essentially forgetting about God—and looking for meaning and identity in other things. Ancient Israel did that when they abandoned God and chased after numerous fertility gods, idols that seemed sexier and more functional than the God who had rescued the people from slavery in Egypt.
Sin also creates victims. Along with all of us sinners, there are those who are the sinned against. These are people who have been abused, neglected, oppressed, used, and discarded. This victimization often results in an identity grounded in pain, and pain always demands medication.
The biblical imagery of sin includes one of a person walking along a path that is sure to end up in a proper destination. And then the person decides to wander off that well-worn trail and do some exploring. Once off the path, the person becomes disoriented and loses all sense of direction. Fear and desperation emerge and the person embraces a new identity: A person who is lost.
Wilderness experts often caution people about what to do when they get lost in the woods, because too many people do the wrong things when they lose their way. Once off the trail, they panic, exhaust themselves, get dehydrated, and get even more lost than they were in the first place.
That’s a good biblical image for sin. And, as a wise man once said: Sin makes you stupid.
When followers of Jesus start following other desires, stupidity isn’t far from the scene. When our identity as kin to Jesus changes into something else—as lonely people, misunderstood people, needy people, addictive people, suffering people—our desires demand fulfillment from a source that is other than God. There are all kinds of stories of extra-marital affairs, substance abuse, thievery—you name it—that take place within the shared life of churches when people’s identities shift and wander off the path, the way, that is Jesus.
Psalm 73 says it well:
“When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence. I’m still in your presence, but you’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me.
You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful.” (vv. 21-25, The Message)