Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Exceeding Sinfulness of Sin

Just got back from the Dark Knight Rises with my son, who was seeing it for the second time.  We paid $7.00 for the ticket, and I have to say it was worth it--which I rarely do.  Lots of action and plot and human enough that I overlooked that it was based on a comic book.  OK, OK, I know comic books are not what they were fifty years ago.  I was enthralled by it and unable to detect any CGI--it was very seamless.

I have written before about my take on the batman movies of Nolan. The idea behind them, it seems to me, is that the savior must be willing to take on the evil to protect the "innocents" (who aren't really innocent in this world of Batman, at least in the villains' eyes).  Taking on the evil moves the savior/hero very close to evil himself; he has to be willing to do things that the supposed good guys (in this case, the police) won't or can't do.  Yet in this Batman/Nolan world I think we are challenged to understand what good and evil are, where they reside.  That is an age-old question.  Are innocents really innocent, or just passively accepting of evil when they get a moral choice?  Does evil reside in a system, in action, in the heart, in only certain people?  Is evil even real as a disembodied force, or is it just a characteristic of action?  (I learn toward the second.)  Is evil the taking of life, the denying of rights of one person by another?  Is evil codified more specifically?  do we have the right to call anyone evil

I have heard many sermons in my life and one phrase I remember is "the exceeding sinfulness of sin."  Now, that seems like a redundancy, or just a play on words, but I've been thinking about it.  It is a phrase designed to make us think about the depths of sin to which we can go, of which we are capable.  Nice middle-class people will accept that they are sinners as long as everybody else gets classes into that category.  That ways we don't have to look really close at our sin.

On the other hand, some Christians try to rise above their sin and somehow transcend it, so that they get to the point where they can separate themselves from others. 

We can respond to the exceedingly sinfulness of sin within ourselves in three ways.  Denial, resisting the reality that we can become addicts and hurt people, or we can cheat on our spouses, or turn our backs on the truly hurting, or steal when no one is looking--that those are possibilities, that we are not above those things.  Depression is another; shame, not accepting forgiveness, beating ourselves up.  Dependence, or throwing ourselves upon the mercy of God is the best.  The beauty of Reformed theology is that we don't worry about how sinful we are.  We know it and embrace it because that is the way to grace, and we don't waste time beating ourselves up over it and wishing we weren't sinners. 

There is of course, the option of embracing and going with our sin, but that is not viable.  What is viable is to not wallow in it, not keep going back to it like a dog to vomit, and not bringing up the sin of others indefinitely either.

I am thinking about all this in light of the shootings in Colorado and having seen the Batman movie.  It was violent, of course, and I had the uneasy feeling that what was being depicted on the scenes--thousands of people get killed by gunfire in crowded public places--was exactly what happened in Aurora on Thursday night.  I have been reading all kinds of things on the Internet about the mass murders, from conspiracy theories (he got the money for the weapons from the FBI as part of a plot to turn the American people against guns in order to support a UN Arms Treaty) to spiritual insights (especially from a woman that was there).  The family member of a women I work with was among the dead.  I've read criticisms of people who ran out "over dead bodies" trying to save themselves or their children.  And everyone wonders how this person could do this, plan this, by himself, for months.

Is this evil or madness?  I do not think it gets to be called madness because the rest of us can't fathom such behavior.  It is a reminder of the exceedingly sinfulness of sin, that sin is not funny, that it is not eating a brownie that is tempting you, but it is destructive and willful and intentional.

There is another response, though, I have to the Batman movie.  The underlying theme is that the city needs a hero.  No, we do not need A hero.  This is the greatest human fallacy, that someone political or charismatic will ride in on a white horse to save the day and fix everything.    It might be the pastor or the president.    We want this world, just fixed--no parking tickets, no rain, no bad guys.  It's a childish dream.  Yes, I know, the second coming of Christ is the ultimate hero story, but it will usher in a different reality than this one.We don't get that in eternity.  We get a new heaven and a new earth.

 Until then, we must all be heroes.  There is no Batman or Superman. 

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