Monday, December 1, 2014

No Condemnation In Christ, Part 1: Introduction

As a person who struggles with same-sex attraction, and who has had my share of faults related to that struggle, guilt comes easily to me.  I don't mean contrition, the good sort of sorrow over one's sins.  No, I mean a deep sense of shame, of feeling as though I am somehow the lowest of the low.  I have stumbled across those, for example, who actually believe that homosexual sins should be punishable by death, while "conveniently" insisting that other sins--namely, the sort of sins "normal" people (read:  People like themselves) might commit--are somehow different, and are God's alone to deal with.

Recently, I watched a video by a guy who quoted 1 Timothy 1:8-11, which does indeed mention homosexual sin in the same context as murderers and kidnappers.  The guy used this to justify punishing homosexual faults with the same severity, by law, as one would punish those others.  In fact, as I read his Facebook page, I saw indications that he wasn't opposed to the death penalty for homosexuality.  He actually used the inclusion of kidnappers and murderers in these same verses to insist that the verses don't simply condemn all sin equally, because after all we don't let kidnappers and murderers go without severe temporal punishment; so why, he asked, should those who commit homosexual acts "get a pass?"  He conveniently glossed over the fact that this same passage mentions those who are "sinful" in general terms, and mentions those who are guilty of "whatever else is opposed to sound teaching," which would pretty much include all sin.  So the irony is that the very passage he used to say that homosexual sins are more deserving of human punishment--apparently up to and including the death penalty--than other sins, also mentions sin in general.  So if the inclusion of homosexual sins in this passage, alongside murder and kidnappers, is proof that homosexual sins should be dealt with just as harshly as those by man's laws, then so must anything sinful, anything which is "opposed to sound teaching."

There's a saying about this somewhere...

The tendency of Pharisaical types to single out my sins as being somehow so much "worse" than their own wreaks several orders of havoc on me, especially when some go so far as to suggest that people who commit my sins ought to be killed, in contrast to other sinners who do indeed evidently "get a pass" on such a grim fate.  It causes me to feel that, because I'm unlucky enough to struggle with a more "taboo" sin, God condemns me more harshly than He condemns others.  Yet I admit it:  I do deserve death for my sins.  My sins are a stench to God's nose, a deep affront to Him.  In a society where there was perfect justice, not tempered by mercy, I would and should be put to a painful and horrible death for the misdeeds I've committed.  Not only my sexual sins; my lies, my gluttony, my selfishness, my lashing out in anger.  From the least to the greatest, these are all atrocities.

After all, even the slightest sin of mine, or anyone else, contributes to the pain and suffering of Christ as He was tormented and killed, so in a way every sin is an act of sadistic violence against God the Son, and therefore on level with (and beyond!) the despicable deeds of someone who kidnapped and tortured someone before killing them.  Because that's what all sin in the past, present, and future has actually done to Jesus .  That's precisely why no one who has ever sinned has the right to look down on any other sinner, no matter how "vile" the other sinner's deeds may seem.  So some part of me, when I encounter Pharisaic rhetoric, thinks I should simply admit that they're right.  The fact that they don't recognize the depravity of their own sins is their own tragedy, their own blindness, but their condemnation of me, at least, is perfectly justified.  And where it relates to my same sex attraction and related failures, that fills me time and again with a deep sense of shame that I can barely contain.  And actually--although this is the topic for a different post--I don't necessarily oppose the idea of a government where my sins would be criminalized, if this criminalization was tempered by mercy and compassion (which, as you might have guessed, certainly rules out Mr. Pharisee's longing for putting us to death!), for I know within me, at least intellectually, that the way I have sinned against God, nature, and the dignity of masculinity is nothing short of criminal.

That's why I thank God, though, that in Christ I am not the sum total of my sins.  In Christ I am redeemed, so that "if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."  Repentance is necessary, yes.  Penance is necessary, yes.  And it might even be just for my fellow man to punish me for my sins, if it's for the good of society.  I would even give my very life to return to a Christian society, so maybe accepting some law against my own behavior would be a way for me to put my money where my mouth is.  But even if it came to that, I am not irredeemably corrupted when I sin, because in Jesus Christ there is no sin that puts me beyond redemption, so long as I do not give up the good fight.  Some sins may rightly put me on the path to punishment at the hands of men, but they do not rob me of the ability, in Christ, to be redeemed.

The eighth chapter of St. Paul's letter to the Romans has many beautiful reflections on this reality.  So consider this post an introduction to a series of posts that are going to reflect on that chapter, in sections.  I'm actually not alone in this project:  Both I and my friend and fellow blogger Daniel, at the blog Mercy Street, have conspired to tackle this series together.  You can read his own first post on the series here.  For now, suffice to say that, as the first verse of the chapter says, "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  While that doesn't mean that we can "sin it up" without repenting, it does mean that we are delivered from being irrecoverably broken by our sins.  And that's pretty good reason to feel worth something, not because of my own worthiness, but because of the worth Christ has given me.  By His Grace, I am not so rotten or despicable after all, even though without His Grace I would most certainly be.

I hope you'll join me, dear reader, as I plunge further into this beautiful chapter in future posts.

No comments:

Post a Comment