In the face of injustice, the horrors of war, and the forces of nature, humanitarian efforts amaze me. The courage and compassion that leads some people to help in these places are inspiring. They call to the very best in us. Some would say they call to our humanity. The Vicar of Bagdad would be one such inspiring person.
Observing this great well of compassion that exists in us, it has been a thing of bewilderment to me to find that there is also such a capacity for callousness. Looting the homes of bushfire-driven evacuees. Entertainment superstars who sexually exploit fans. Our government treating people fleeing for their lives as criminals. Even our own carelessness with one another.
I have come to love Sin.
Not that I love our misdemeanours. Nor the gross violations of human persons that fill the news. I love the Christian teaching of Sin because it has such high explanatory value. It is the teaching that there is a common flaw found throughout humanity. It travels deeper than the behavioural choices we make, our habits, or our cultural conditioning. Sin is an infection of our spirit. It does not negate the goodness of the image-of-God in which we have been created. But Sin does influence every aspect of our lives, even the very best of it. The revered apostle Paul is frank as he observes the infection of Sin at work in his life – “What I do not want to do, I do, and what I want to do, I do not do…”
Solving the problem of Sin is another thing altogether.
The ‘pull yourself up by the moral bootstraps’ approach of rules and willpower is heartbreaking. It’s like ‘squeezing a pimple’ – you think you’ve nailed it, only to find you’ve dispersed infected puss under your skin. More eruptions are inevitable.
The ‘legislate’ approach only goes so far too. We may be able to fine the traffic into compliance with speed limits. We may be able to lock up our ‘worst’ offenders. But as vilification legislation highlights – we cannot legislate a person’s heart. It only drives them to act or to react.
Of course, there’s the name, blame, and shame, but that doesn’t end anywhere you want to be.
And then there’s redemption through Jesus and an infusion of the Spirit-breath of God. It dares me to hope. It opens the window on a stale room to invite a waft of joy. It buys some time to learn to love again, and shows us what it will look like when we do.