This has been something much on my mind lately. I feel that most churches focus too much on the question of sin. Eradicating sin out of fear of punishment or judgment. We forget that Jesus has already taken care of the question of our judgment before God. We forget that Ephesians 5 states that Christ presents the church to himself as “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”.
Of course it’s more complicated than that, it has to be, right? Because if holiness were as simple as acknowledging that Christ already sees us as holy, we’d have a lot less headaches. So I will say this now: our salvation truly is as simple as accepting the fact that we, through Christ, are already seen as blameless. But our temporal happiness, here, on Earth, our Earthly salvation, all hinges on our own love for and pursuit of holiness.
1 Corinthians 6:12- Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
And this is where things get interesting. We know that God will forgive us. We know that our salvation is coming. We could very easily take those facts and teach that sin, then, is of no consequence. We could do that, and in fact the early church had a lot of problems with people teaching precisely that. Which is why we find that one very interesting caution in Corinthians, a place where people were curious about no longer having to live under the law. The Apostle says, “everything is permissible- but not everything is beneficial.” Or, as my dad would less eloquently put it, “do what you want, but suffer the consequences.”
Because our heavenly salvation and our earthly one are not the same thing. We must remember that the reason there are rules for holy living is not to torment us, to make us feel insufficient, or to set us up to fail. Living a holy life is a reward in and of itself. All sin, all falling short, comes with immediate earthly consequences. Imagine a man has an affair because he knows he will be forgiven by God and he simply “can’t resist the temptation”. There are two problems with this- one; will he ever be truly repentant if he feels it is allowable for him to do so? and two; God may embrace him, but what about his wife? God cautions us against certain behaviors because he attempts to protect us from the immediate consequences of living a life of sin. The sins we see listed over and over in the New Testament- fornication, jealousy, deceit, coarse talk- these are all sins that seperate us not only from God but also from other people. And the things that God asks us to do: share, care, embrace, live together- these are all things that draw other people to us.
I long for holiness. Not for my own righteousness, but because I know that the ways in which I fall short condemn me to have more pain in this life, and they cause pain for others. I just want to taste, if only for a minute, what life would be like if there were no sin. I know I won’t taste the fulness of it until I am with God, but I long for it. So I try to get as close as I can every day, and every day the journey takes me just a little bit further, and I am reassured that I have found the right path.