Over time, as we struggle with sin, we grow weary of fighting it. Given enough time, we will face a choice: do we keep calling it sin and continue struggling, or do we rename it and claim that we have defacto overcome it?
This is a very real choice for any sin. You name it and it looks the same. Do you eat too much? Give up struggling with it and join a body-positive movement. Be proud of the body God has given you even though your doctor and scripture may say otherwise.
Or take homosexuality, the cause dejour to rename these days. The struggle is real, it is persistent and it is unrelenting. I have watched many people struggle with this over years and even decades, only to finally decide they are tired of the struggle. They choose to rename it. No longer do they call it sin, but a sexual orientation. God made them that way. It is time they embrace it and celebrate it. No more struggling! It’s magic!
It Doesn’t Go Away
But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Learning to be happy with a body that suffers from over-eating doesn’t make the struggle go away. You have to create a new narrative that puts you at odds with others. Skinny people, dieters, doctors, etc. are the new enemy, not sin. Anyone who would try to “body shame” are now the enemy. So instead of going to war against the sin, we go to war against those who would try to help.
If it feels like I am picking on you if you are overweight, I am sorry. Gluttony is a “safe sin” in our American conservative Christian world, but it is no less damaging a sin than others that harm the body. We have almost collectively decided to redefine it as something different than what scripture does.
And that is why it is becoming easier and easier for people to redefine sin, because we in the church have decided there are just things we don’t want to deal with. We have made some sins okay while others are not.
Struggle with porn? No big deal. Cheat on your taxes? Who doesn’t? Eat too much? It’s not that bad. You feel like you’re gay? You need to step down from church leadership, get counseling and we’ll never look at you the same again. Sound familiar?
Picking And Choosing
The problem with making some sins okay and others not okay is that it opens up the license to redefine any sin and eventually all sin. This truly grieves the heart of the Lord.
The struggle is real, though, and redefining sin never makes the struggle go away. We mask the struggle instead by making new enemies. In essence, when we redefine any sin, we simply switch sides in the battle of holiness.
The redefinition of homosexuality has not taken the struggle away from the broken hearts of those being oppressed by it. They learn to redirect their pain and struggle against others who are the “haters.” Instead of their sin being the enemy, anyone who would hold to a traditional view of sexuality is now the enemy. But there is a better way.
I have found that the Lord has never dealt with me about more than one sin issue at a time, but I have also found that if I ask the Lord for increased holiness, He never fails to deal with some sin issue in my heart. If we are committed to growing in our love for the Lord, it means we must be equally committed to seeking His holiness. That will give Him license to deal with the sin that exists in our hearts and actions.
The Psalmist said it like this:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
This is the heart of those who desire to know God more and more. Not only must we not give up on the struggle, we must embrace it and invite God into our lives to make the struggle ongoing. If we desire to grow closer to God, we must choose to allow Him access to search our hearts and eliminate every sinful (offensive) way in us.
That means that we will be inviting God to introduce an ongoing struggle into our lives as long as we live. For most sin issues, God can point them out, heal us and give us the grace to move on. For others, it will be an ongoing battle that keeps recurring.
God’s Big But
But, and what a magnificent “but” it is, there is something the Lord offers in return for our struggle with sin. The Lord is so overwhelmingly amazed by our desire to wrestle with and overcome sin so that we could know Him more and be closer to Him that He is actually undone by His emotions.
In the greatest allegory of His love for His bride, the church, God has this to say about those who choose Him amidst the struggle and trials of life:
You are beautiful as Tirzah, my darling, as lovely as Jerusalem, as majestic as troops with banners.
Turn your eyes away from me, they overwhelm me.
Song of Songs 6:4-5
Did you see that? God, speaking to His bride, the church, asks her to “look away” because He is overcome with emotion and wants to compose Himself. The God of the universe, our creator and judge, is so overcome with emotions when He thinks about us wanting to know Him more that it brings Him to tears.
He cries tears of joy over us.
When I understand the immense and intense love that He has for me, and how it moves His heart, it makes my struggle with sin seem smaller. It never makes it easy, but it makes it easier to declare war on sin and keep fighting. It doesn’t mean that I always win, but it means that I will never quit.
By knowing that God is so captured by our weak and broken love for Him that it actually brings Him to tears, it gives us the power to invite Him to deal with our sin, expose it and give us freedom from it. Even if that struggle may last another 70 years, it can make it worth it.
But we have to embrace the struggle.
The struggle is real.
The struggle is hard.
But the struggle is so worth it.