Last year, I wrote this in a letter to a friend:
I've been granted some wake-up calls--and plenty of second chances. Those later experiences were what led me into the understanding I have of sin. I wasn't trying to rebel against God. But I was hurting, and I found that I received emotional comfort from a friend--and I allowed that to translate into a sexual relationship ... with a female. It went against everything I believed was right, and I could easily despise myself because I allowed myself to get into that. Ok, sometimes I do. ... It was a learning experience for me; and no matter how horrible I felt, I was never outside of God's love. I thought I was much too far away to rebuild any kind of relationship with God, but He thought different and I'm so grateful that He is that much bigger than my self-condemning heart. I was raised in the church. I chose to serve God before I had ever had a chance to understand what it meant to need a Saviour. That's His perfect will: that I be brought up within His love and the knowledge of Him. But I live in a sinful world, and the other part of His will is that I understand His saving grace. And maybe that is the answer to your question. Some people are good people, but all of us have the ability to fall into temptation and to do things that separate us from God unless we are drawn into an acceptance of the only thing that can keep us from separating ourselves from Him.
I had more thoughts while I was eating breakfast this morning, and I thought I'd try putting them into words.
I think we've sort of inherited this idea that sin is bad and if you sin you're a bad person. That's nothing more than the knowledge of good and evil: something Adam and Eve decided they wanted and passed on to the rest of humanity. We like to judge each other--it makes us feel like we understand, and we don't have to ask the big questions that hurt. It wasn't meant to be that way in the first place. (Yes, I'm rambling sort of off-topic, but I do have a point and it's not on the top of my head!)
God created people to be in relationship with Him. He gives wisdom and understanding abundantly to us when we ask, and that has never changed. But in the beginning there was no need for a bridge between us and God. That fellowship was tight.
But God is also an emotional being. A relationship of forced affection is not a true relationship, and I believe He feels that just as we do. That's part of what being created in His image is about. People often ask why He allows evil in the world. Sometimes I think I get a glimpse. He allows it because He wants us to draw near in spite of everything. He placed a certain tree in Eden because He needed His creation to choose to trust and to rely on Him for understanding. That creation failed to trust, and today we're left with the remnants of this. I believe, personally, that every cruelty comes down to a basic belief about what is "good or evil" or "right or wrong". God's knowledge of good and evil is much bigger and tempered with plenty of compassion. I don't know the whole story about Satan/Lucipher. (Brittany asked me about this, and I promised to look it up for her.) I do know that he chose to make himself at odds with God, and I know that God cast him out. That's another topic for another ramble. My point is that God gives us chances to return to Him while we still live, even though we have gone on our own way and tried everything to find the answers ourselves when we would find the answers and much more if we could bring ourselves to trust in God.
Ironically, even in seeking God we often just can't let go and trust in Him. If I remember correctly, this resulted in the first murder. I struggled to understand this for a long time, and it finally hit me. Cain was offering HIS creation. "See how good I did, God? See how hard I've worked for you?" Abel offered what God gave to him in the first place. He recognized God as the source of his success. This is the offering God wants, complete trust in Him; and that is why He did not accept Cain's offering. You can't earn God's love by working hard or being "good enough". Cain was still under the influence of that awful, judgmental spirit passed down from his parents. He wasn't being bad; in fact, he was trying with all his might to please God. But without faith, it is impossible to please God. Oh, and yes, we even try to manufacture our own faith! Faith is as much a gift as the meat Abel offered in sacrifice.
What does this all have to do with sin? It gets back to what I said. Sin is nothing more than the act of refusing to be in fellowship with God, and it's something all of us do at some time in our lives. But too often we get into worrying about each other's destiny instead of helping each other to understand the way to reach God. There were times when God promised horrible things to Israel, the people He chose to enter into a special relationship with. But in context, those promises always included the promise of a way out. "Return to me," is a very common theme throughout the Bible. Israel was much like a lot of churches these days. They went through the motions, thinking God would accept them because they were Israel and they were (on the surface) doing what they were supposed to.
As far as "witnessing" goes, I think a lot of people miss the mark. They like the assurance that comes from the moment of apparent salvation and even get it down to a good motion, saying "the sinner's prayer". I despise tracts, and there is a reason why. They don't speak to the person's needs, and I've never known Jesus to be like that! He was/is a highly individual minister, and he is an individual Savior! His relationship with each person he met when he was physically alive was always personal, and I believe that is still true. That's why I tell you there is no right or wrong way to pray. There are instructions for praying, but I believe these have more to do with the state of the heart in prayer than with the words said. And true witnessing is about bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus, not just about saying some prayer that supposedly gets them saved from the pits of hell. It's a relationship with God through Christ that saves; and besides, who cares about the pits of hell when you can experience life, even right here in "the land of the living"?
I've struggled with this for a long time, though. I've seen people with that kind of relationship, and I've always wanted it but never really known how to get it. Well, it's built, not manufactured. It's a relationship, and it means I have to interact; and that means asking and listening and thanking--all the things I would do in a relationship with another person. It's scary to think about making that leap, but it's so worth it. I "got saved" 17 years ago, but even since then I've gone in and out of that trusting state. I do believe that I can choose to walk away from God, and in that respect I don't agree with the "once saved always saved" theology. Probably the right theology but very misused.
Ok, that's enough for this novel. *grin* I'm liking this. I went through years feeling like I never had anyone to talk to either, not since 1992. But I do now, and I'm so glad. Will you do me a favor and hold me accountable for building that relationship? I need that, and I want it from someone who cares about ME, not just someone who sort of knows me and will make sure I'm going through the motions.