We are in the midst of a world pandemic. In order to “cure” the world of this virus, our behavior is being regulated and closely scrutinized.
There is little doubt that these are stressful times, which are a by-product of our disobedience to God. I am not a prophet, nor am I a good example of a follower of Christ. However, I believe that the times we are living through are an opportunity to reflect upon our relationship to God, and to make changes to survive not only our worldly challenges, but our challenges spiritually. It is an opportunity of hope and promise.
I’ve made many mistakes in my own life that I regret. Who hasn’t? In one way or another, I have broken every commandment — and remained silent when others did so. If not literally, then in thought. And to make it worse, I sometimes have tried to rationalize my sins or explain them away. Or, after receiving forgiveness from God, I repeat them. Sometimes knowingly, sometimes out of habit.
Sinning is not only part of my nature as a human being, it has also become habitual in many ways and it isn’t easy to overcome. The first step toward change is to increase my awareness of the things I do that are sinful. Simply put, sins are disobedience to God. It doesn’t matter whether something is “legal” on earth if it is sinful under God’s laws: God’s laws take priority. And it isn’t an excuse to say I don’t know God’s laws. I know them. God’s laws are the Ten Commandments, and the application of them consistent with Jesus’ teachings:
“You shall worship no other god than me.
You shall not make yourselves any idols: no images of animals, birds, or fish. You must never bow or worship it in any way; for I, the Lord your God, am very possessive. I will not share your affection with any other god! And when I punish people for their sins, the punishment continues upon the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those who hate me; but I lavish my love upon thousands of those who love me and obey my commandments.
You shall not use the name of Jehovah your God irreverently, nor use it to swear to a falsehood. You will not escape punishment if you do.
Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day. Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your God. On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves—whether men or women—or your cattle or your house guests. For in six days the Lord made the heaven, earth, and sea, and everything in them, and rested the seventh day: so he blessed the Sabbath day and set it aside for the rest.
Honor your father and mother, that you may have a long, good life in the land the Lord your God will give you.
You must not murder.
You must not commit adultery.
You must not steal.
You must not lie.
You must not be envious of your neighbor’s house, or want to sleep with his wife, or want to own his slaves, oxen, donkeys, or anything else he has.”
When Jesus was asked which of these 10 Commandments is the most important, “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is, ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all others.’” (Matthew 23:37-40) So it is on these two commandments that I focus my efforts to change.
When I read the Bible often, and as it becomes more and more familiar to me, it becomes clear to me that I am not living my life in the manner I should. Nor do I find change easy. I identify one sin of which I am guilty, only to meet that challenge and find another. Sometimes I become overwhelmed by my inability to obey God consistently. When that happens, I want to take comfort that I didn’t sin as badly as I could have. Or, if I don’t get caught when I sin, I want to believe that my sin was a “harmless” sin and that it didn’t really matter.
The problem with that is that is it simply isn’t true: “Sin matters.” Even “little ones.” They are like a virus that if not dealt with, will continue to grow and spread until they threaten my spiritual life. The Bible is clear that it is dangerous to “justify” sin or consider any sin “harmless”. It’s also foolish to think that if I don’t immediately experience adverse consequences from sin, that I have escaped sin’s consequences. Not true.
Unless I realize my sins, accept responsibility for my sins, attempt to “make right” the harm my sins have caused, ask God’s forgiveness for my sins, and stop repeating those sins, (together, all of these acts comprise my understanding of “repentance”), the Bible makes clear that I’m in danger of losing my spiritual self – and of unintentionally mocking and challenging my Lord: “Woe to those who drag their sins behind them like a bullock on a rope. They even mock the Holy One of Israel and dare the Lord to punish them. “Hurry up and punish us, O Lord,” they say. ‘We want to see what you can do!’ They say what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right; that black is white and white is black; bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. Woe to them who are wise and shrewd in their own eyes!” (Isaiah 5:18-21)
The only “cure” for sin – the only way to avoid a spiritual point of no return – is through God’s loving mercy and forgiveness. The only way to God is through belief in Jesus Christ: “Jesus told him, ‘I am the Way – yes, and the Truth and the Life. No one can get to the Father except by means of me.” (John 14:6)
I feel overwhelming gratitude knowing that God has provided a way for my sins to be forgiven. I feel a sense of hope and happiness knowing how much I am loved. And humility because I know it is what I need.
In this time of stress and challenge, it is comforting to me to know that despite my sins and those of others, God remains loving, merciful and forgiving to those who turn to Jesus and ask for God’s forgiveness. It also gives me comfort and strength to know that we do not face these challenges alone.
“Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need! He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most. Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way. You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow! Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.” (Psalm 23:1-6)
In this time of stress and challenge, I remain hopeful and feel loved. I feel God with us.
Photo by Jazzdat (Pass Required During Covid-19 Pandemic)