I really want to sin.
No, I don’t want to go out and shoot a person in the face or rob the last pennies from some poor old dear or even take advantage of the low prices abusive labour practices can provide.
But there’s still plenty of bad things I still really would like to do. I mean I love that liberating feeling you get when you let all that venom you have stored up over a certain person come spewing out in a public place. Laughing and connecting with people often involves making crude jokes for a cheap laugh. Small price to pay for friendship, right? If we spend all night drinking, it’s not a big deal because at least we’re going to be friends!
Maybe if I get a girlfriend, I’d want to sleep with her under the guise of ‘we’re going to get married anyway’? Probably. Maybe. And I don’t need to care about that friend who’s life is falling to bits, because I’ve clearly got enough on my own plate without someones drug habit or drinking problem adding to the pile, you know?
Taking the time out to connect with God is always a struggle. It’s not like I don’t know the peace and joy and comfort available to me. It’s not like I don’t know that hearing from God will be to me the sweetest sound, the words of life. But I still don’t want to do it.
I really want to sin. To separate myself from God and to dishonour his creation and to hurt my neighbour. The worst part is that I am very aware of the harm sin causes.
But that doesn’t stop it’s power.
Like a smoker who is told all the facts of cancer and heart disease and the high cost will be willing to look past all this to burn away more money for the nicotine. Sin is an addiction. Worse still. An addiction we are born with. Surly we came from the womb with this need for evil.
David, an ancient king of Israel wrote some powerful words about his own soul that I feel I can relate to:
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,and in sin did my mother conceive me.(Psalm 51:5)
A dire state indeed. Yet in the seat of my being there is something not quite right. Resigning myself to sin does not appeal as it should. It’s tempting, for sure, yet there is something else.
That something else has been unmistakable for years now.
That something else which does not permit sin to go unchecked.
When God took me by the hand to lead me down his paths, a re-orientation occurred in my being. It is an experience common amongst those who follow this road. Paul used the phrase ‘new creation’ to describe this change (2 Corinthians 5:17. Jesus called it ‘rebirth’ (John 3:5). This notion of something outside of ourselves occurring and re-orienting a person to pursue God and to want to walk in his steps.
Yet still there is still this urge to sin. And at the same time, an impulse to overcome.
I see this same paradox in David’s words. After the gravity of his sin, David seeks something more. The presence of God:
Cast me not away from your presence,and take not your Holy Spirit from me.Restore to me the joy of your salvation,and uphold me with a willing spirit.(Psalm 51:11-12)
Elsewhere, the songwriters of old cry out:
Whom have I in heaven but you?And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.My flesh and my heart may fail,but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.(Psalm 73:25-26)
What does it mean for God to be my portion?
I know what spending a night drinking with the boys looks like: Laughter and singing and adventure and friendship and bonds which are not easily broken. I can imagine what sex outside of marriage might look like: Harmless fun between two consenting adults. A great time and a good feeling. And I love to assure myself of my own moral goodness whilst buying cheap clothes made by slaves.
So what if I don’t go out drinking with the boys? How is there greater joy? How is God my portion? How is the path of salvation better than the companionship I could experience?
I suppose sin can be far more tangible than the things of God. In as much as I know myself, I am keenly aware that I act in ways God does not approve of because of the perceived gain at the end. The prize, if you like. Granted, the prize is always a short lived or disappointing one. Yet even a short lived prize seems worth the effort.
What does it looks like for God to be the prize, then?
I understand eternal life to be a gift of grace, received through faith. So that can’t be it. Heaven isn’t earned.
So then, why should I attempt to be moral? Indeed why should I not sin? Why should I miss out on the potential good it can bring me?
In one of the stories Jesus told, he insists that life with God is worth more than anything: like a great treasure to be found, for which someone might give everything up for (Matthew 13:44).
Contemplating my own soul, I notice that much of the time God is not that great treasure. But I want him to be. I don’t think ridged obedience for obedience’s sake is what the Lord wants. From what I see in the saints of old, it doesn’t seem to work either. No, they say sin is overcome by understanding that God has a greater worth.
I just wish I could taste it.
And that is what I shall pray for.