Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sin and Desire

I have claimed before that there are two opposite, yet equally wrong, extremes embraced by most Christians: we tend to either allow grace to be an excuse for embracing sinful nature, or allow our piety to make us judgmental of other people.

I cannot help but think that both have a similar, underlying mistake. Christians who glory in their sinful natures tend to see their desires as overwhelmingly strong - so strong that they cannot be defeated and therefore should be allowed to run wild. Christians who are more pious (and thus more judgmental) tend to look down their nose at those who cannot demonstrate the willpower to resist these strong temptations.

The common thread, of course, is the belief that our desires are too strong. Our desire for sex is too strong, our desire for drink is too strong, our desire for success is too strong. And therefore, we fail. I cannot help but think this is wrong.

C.S. Lewis once said, "Our Lord finds out desires not too strong, but too weak. ...We are far too easily pleased." I think what Lewis is getting at is truly a powerful concept. We see our desire as sinful--that is wrong. Our desires are generally good, wanting what the soul knows is healthy. The sin is not in the desire. Sin occurs when we allow a worldly imitation to fulfill our desire.

God gives us the desire for unconditional love; we settle for lust instead.
God gives us a grand mission to be soldiers for the Most High; we settle for the missions given us by our employers instead.
God gives us a desire for peace and calm; we settle for a cold beer and relaxation instead.
God gives us a chance at eternal life; we focus on "leaving a legacy" instead.
God gives us children to raise; we settle for educating them instead.
God gives us the desire to be seen as worthy in His sight; we settle for pride in our own accomplishments instead.
God gives us the chance to inherit all of Creation; we settle for storing up riches on earth instead.
God gives us a desire for brotherhood and fellowship; we settle for friends and football instead.
God gives us a desire for His Kingdom; we settle for church instead.

In short, God gives us a desire for joy; we settle for pleasure instead.

Sin does not come from excessive desire. Sin comes into our lives when we accept the world's offering as a fulfillment for the perfectly-acceptable desires God gives us. Conquering sin does not come from eliminating the desire--just the opposite. Sin is conquered when you take the desires given us from God and embrace it in the proper and appropriate manner.

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