When I first was in ministry, the area where I pastored had a group of people who were teaching on a subject I would call “hyper grace.” A few years later, when I was pastoring in the Twin Cities, there was a Christian radio show focusing on what they perceived to be “apologetics” and how to trip up people to understand they were truly “sinners.”
Both groups focused on the impossibility of “keeping the Law” and how easily we “sinned.” One line of questioning was used when they “engaged” people in their seemingly flawless apologetic concerning “sin.” It is often quite difficult to get people to understand they are “sinners.” So, when the conversation was going and the Christian would talk about “sin”, the other person (the “sinner”) would say they weren’t a sinner. They hadn’t done anything “wrong.”
With glee, the trap was sprung! The Christian would ask, “Do you mow your lawn on Sunday?”
“Well, uh, sometimes I guess.”
“Well, then, you broke the Sabbath! You have sinned! YOU NEED GOD!”
First of all, being new out of college and just into the ministry, I was new to a lot of things, but even I knew Sunday was not the Sabbath. (Not in the context of the Law given on Sinai to the Israelites, who, I am quite sure, did not have lawns to mow.)
Second, it was a perfect example to me as to just how wrong we have looked at “sin” as evangelicals for a very long time. And heaven. And salvation. And the cross of Christ. And the reason for the crucifixion.
All of that being very basic stuff to Christianity, it’s quite embarrassing to look back and realize just how off-base I was for a very long time.
As I work my way through The Day the Revolution Began again, I am shocked at my ignorance and humbled by the fact I communicated so poorly for so long.
We had made “sin” simply a breaking of arbitrary commandments (mowing your lawn on Sunday!) and then made the penalty DEATH of all things! (For mowing my lawn? But it really needed it and that was all the time I had that week! And now… I’m going to HELL?)
The arbitrary Judge of the universe saw you break an arbitrary law and POOF, off to hell you go!
The story of the cross and the Kingdom of God is so much more powerful… and my spirit and soul are challenged to capture the story all over again.
This is the walk of Lent. I am always learning. Often repenting. Staying humble.