Sometimes our pain is caused by love
or maybe just the lack of.
Sometimes our love is caused by pain
of someone else's using gain.
Sometimes we're sure that love is real,
or maybe it's just what we feel.
Sometimes what's real is not of love
It's what we get because we deal.
But God loves us though He can see
the ugly stain in you and me.
Our sins, the broken ones we are,
And brings us home from wandering far.
His love removes the pain we feel,
His love restores and makes us real.
His love redeems the broken man.
His love says we can stand again.
-- Thom Hunter
I've often said that if I had been given a choice of sins, I would have chosen more wisely, that I would not have picked from the shelf the fruit of temptation labeled same-sex attraction. I would have gone on down the aisle for some sin a little less edgy, a little less blatant, a little more acceptable, more palatable . . . more forgivable? -- which makes no sense -- but I would definitely have preferred a sin that more people could better understand.
Of course . . . there is nothing wise about "choosing sin" in the first place. The only wise thing is to not. Too late. We mature into our wisdom at about the same rate we grow into our sin and they uncomfortably co-habitate. Of course, we confuse knowledge with wisdom, but that's a topic for another day. The point is, we sin. We're not setting a precedence, or establishing a trend. Sin is not a fad; it's a fact.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. -- Romans 7:14-16
I know that a lot of the people who read this blog have been beaten down by the weight of their sexual sin. I know that a lot of the people who read this blog are trying to find some way to lift back up those they love who have been beaten down. Beaten down by . . . a judgmental church perhaps . . . a blinded-to-his-own-sin brother . . . a former friend with whiplash from the blindsiding . . . a misguided but well-meaning advisor who has a chart on sin-ranking, with sexual sin being "off the charts" . . . a culture warrior who equates homosexual struggles with homosexual agendas. The list of those who are in a frenzied rush to throw the first stone is long.
Why do I know this? As one who fell into sexual sin and emerged into the bright lights of full revelation, I've experienced the repercussions of wrangling with each of the above. Results? Church discipline and removal . . . loss of friendships . . . rejection by my own offspring . . . beyond-the-chart reactions by the more religious-among-we . . . and claims that my sins were tantamount to a deathly attack on all that is good and meaningful in life. We don't stone sexual sinners anymore . . . but we do pile on enough pebbles to bury them in hopes they will please just disappear. It is . . . embarrassing . . . after all. Christians are to pursue purity, not practice lust. (No argument there.)
So, I was wondering . . . if the opportunity presented itself . . . could I maybe just trade up? My sins for someone else's? Take on the sinful nature of a more natural sinner perhaps? Accumulate a few sins from my accusers in exchange for the one that put them to pointing fingers? My same-sex attraction sin, which I never wanted in the first place, slipped across the table for some wild-card sin of another. I hate my sin and am amazed that God loves me despite it . . . and even in spite of it?
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. -- Romans 5:8
If we were not sinners, God would not have needed to send His son. But we are . . . and He did. Amazing love that.
Still . . . I don't like this sin. So . . . I think I'll trade it for . . . hatred . . . or idolatry . . . or unbelief . . . or debauchery . . . or selfish ambition . . . or fits of rage . . . or jealousy . . . or drunkenness . . . or envy . . . or gossip . . . or lying . . . or gluttony . . . or stealing . . . or discord . . . or judgment . . . or pride . . . or witchcraft (well, maybe not) . . . or "the like," which should pretty much cover just about anything the nail-me-to-the-dartboard crowd might bear in their sinful nature. Yep . . . they have one of those natures too.
Some sins are actually greater in the measurement of morality. A person who murders and a person who spreads rumors are not the same. Stealing and coveting are similar, but one, in its action, causes more problems. Still, an exchange of sin might go kind of like this:
"Hey, dude," I would say. "I'll trade you my lustful thoughts for your prideful ones. Even -Steven."
"Wow," he might reply. "If I thought you worthy of my pride, I'd willingly trade . . . but I think I'm probably the only one who could actually bear this sin this well. Sorry, got to pass."
So I move on to the next bargain-basement sin bearer.
"Morning . . . I'm looking to trade all my sexual sin for your gift of gossip. Deal?"
"Oh my goodness," she replied (yes, I know I'm stereotyping.) "You're a sexual sinner? I promise . . . I won't tell a soul . . .unless, of course, I run across someone who might be able to help you out and all. And if I do, I'll be real careful about what I say. Gotta' run. Meeting some friends for lunch."
Hmmm . . . where to turn, where to turn.
"Oh, hey there," I said to the next guy. "I'm ready to rid myself of this sexual sin. Can I interest you in a trade? I noticed you have an extra heaping helping of hatred there. Surely you wouldn't miss that."
"I know about people like you," he said. "And I know all I need to know."
Hatred leads to quick answers.
"Alrighty then," I said to myself as I looked around and spotted a 'friend' from the past. "Wow . . . it's been so long. You still carrying all that judgment around? Care to unload it for my sexual sin? Something a little different . . . even perhaps more manageable?"
"Get thee behind me," came the practiced reply from a face that looked to the left of my shoulder, eyes pinched to avoid the infection of interaction.
My brushes with Brother Hatred and Sister Judgment were a severe blow to my plans for exchanging my sins for another's. The list of sins is actually pretty long, but everyone seemed more-or-less content to deal with what they already have, familiar with their consequences, already comfortable with their lay-it-all-down techniques.
I spotted one last potential swapper. The sin was not so evident, but I knew he had to have it hidden somewhere.
"Oh . . . hey there." I said. "Wanna swap sins? I struggle with sexual temptation and, frankly, I'm tired of all the baggage that comes with it, the diligence required, the up-keep, the internal battle, the always-on-my-guardness of it all. And, well . . . you know . . . it is the worst sin, after all . . . survey says."
He shifted a bit, keeping whatever sin it was he bore, completely out of sight. And then . . . as he turned and ignored me altogether, I caught a glimpse.
I backed away at about the same pace as he. That's one sin I would never trade for. Every sin has consequences, but to be unable or unwilling to forgive? What a burden to bear.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. -- Ephesians 4:32
I crumpled my list and tossed it aside. Not that I want to hang on to my sexual sin. I don't. And I'm not, through the grace of God and the love of brothers and sisters who go beyond the labels. Besides, there's no need to trade away something someone died to remove. Why trade something when you can gain by His having already taken it away? Sin is sin. Mine and yours . . . and his and hers . . . theirs. We're all mingled in our sinful nature and not as separable as we want to believe we are.
Galatians 5:19-21 -- one of the well-known lists of sins -- is followed quickly by Galatians 5:22 . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. I'm sure you get the picture.
Now that's a reasonable trade. The teetering imbalance of sin for the uprighting indwelling of the Spirit. The rotting decay of hatred, sexual immorality, gluttony and sinful on-and-on . . . for the ever-blossoming fruits of the Spirit. None of the things I listed above and conjured to trade for would replace my sexual sin with love, or joy, or peace, or patience, or kindness, or goodness, or faithfulness. No, not one. I'd still just be sinning.
The deal we need to make with each other, sealed with a handshake, heart-to-heart, is to stand with each other and help each other rise to defy the evil one who tempts us each in our own weak way. We can give each other strength through love and forgiveness, but only Jesus Christ can cleanse us from our sins.
I'm not proud to have owned this particular sin. But then . . . pride would be a sin too, wouldn't it?
So, I'm back where I started. As I said, I would not have chosen this sin. In fact, I did not choose this sin. But, I do have a choice I can make regarding this sin, just as every one who struggles with any sin, has. I can choose to awaken each God-given day . . . and give this sin away to the One who bore it for me. Why I took it back so often will be a question God may yet reveal. It's not mine to bear unless I dare to snatch it back and claim for myself something Someone else already paid for. That too, as I see it, is a sin.