Recognizing the Problem
If God, who is perfect love, made us and the world to be drawn into that perfect love and relationship, what went wrong? How did we end up like this?
If we are honest, it’s not just the news – our lives are pretty messed up as well. We hide it or deny it or disguise it, but we’re each pretty broken.
All this brokenness, suffering, and evil, has a root cause. It’s what we call sin.
What is Sin?
First, let’s discuss what sin is NOT. Sin is not merely breaking the arbitrary rules of a capricious and judgmental God. It is not merely eating an apple, nor is it merely asserting our independence. These are all conclusions we can draw from Scripture, but the Reveal of the gospel, the second story, helps us see a different picture entirely.
If God is, at his core, a perfect loving relationship of Three Persons, and if we were made for the purpose of being draw into that relationship, then sin is quite simply a rejection of God.
The Bible uses different metaphors for this rejection. Adultery is a common theme. God is often described as the faithful husband whose wife has run off with other men – not once and in secret, but brazenly and repeatedly.
My person favorite description of sin is as self-centeredness. If the core of God’s character is other-centeredness, this beautiful Trinity, and if Jesus’ life was about God’s self-sacrificing love for us, then the opposite of God’s character is self-centeredness. And yet every one of us can resonate with the recognition of selfishness in our lives. Robbing a bank is selfish; so is gossip. Adultery is selfish; so is looking lustfully at a person. I may not have done the same selfish acts as another, but at the center of my life is the same self-centeredness that I share with all people.
And here’s the final, essential piece of this reveal; sin isn’t primarily about the actions we take, but the source of those actions. For an alcoholic to finally become sober and whole again, he or she must recognize that alcohol isn’t the problem. Alcohol is the symptom; I am the problem.
This is true for every person. We tend to see sin primarily as specific acts and choices and mistakes. Like any addict, we can deny the reality that is so clear to everyone else; I am self-centered. I am the adulterous spouse.
God is a Relationship, and we rejected that relationship.
The Effects of Sin
Read Genesis 3.
This is a story about our rejection of God, and not vice versa. It is our decision to choose what (we think) will make us happy at the expense of the only request he has ever made of us – to trust him. It is our choice, after choosing not to trust him, to run and hide when he comes.
Sadly, in this story there are no signs whatsoever of a desire on our part to return to God. But, despite this sin, there are still signs of his desire to continue to love and care for us. He walks towards us … this is huge, because God could have easily walked the other way, and been done with this experiment of humanity. He seeks us out. He curses us, yes, but even the curse is a protection – eternal life without him is literally hell. He provides clothing – meeting us in our needs, even though those needs arose from our sin.
Notice that our relationship with God is broken, almost entirely on our part, and that this is not an easily solvable situation; how do you call someone back to love you who has chosen to reject you?
Notice as well that our rejection of God has a profound affect on our human relationships as well. Our response to sin is almost always what we see in this story – shame and blame.
Adam and Eve become aware of themselves and their nakedness and are ashamed. Note that the first result of the broken relationship with God is self-centeredness.
Adam and Eve were naked before, but too caught up in the beauty of God reflected in creation and in each other to worry about how they were perceived. Now their eyes are lowered. Before, they had nothing to hide. Now, they are ashamed of themselves.
And of course, the blame game at the end of this story should sound overwhelmingly familiar. Don’t we do this almost every time we’re confronted with our own mistakes? Rather than owning up to them, we find excuses to pass the responsibility for our actions off to another.
Where do we go from here?
When we finally face the truth about our situation, we tend to have four false hopes in which we try to find for a solution to our sin.
Four False Hopes
1. Ourselves – I will try harder and be a better person
2. Others – My friend or loved one will complete me
3. The World – Money/Power/Fame/Success will satisfy me
4. Religion – My good actions will outweigh my bad ones
All are an attempt to fix our problem without giving up our self-centeredness, without returning to the Father, Son and Spirit.
We desperately need to recognize that the problem is us, and therefore, beyond us to solve.
It’s not that we broke a rule; its that we fundamentally dislike God at his core. We don’t want a relationship with the Relationship. He is pure selflessness, and we have chosen self-centeredness.
This doesn’t sound like good news – but it is. Because we cannot solve a problem until we diagnose it. Until we can look at our self-centeredness and own it – not flee in shame or escape with blame – we cannot even hope to change. Moreover, until we see sin as our rejection of God, and not his anger and rejection of us, then we cannot understand what the good news – that Jesus saves sinners – really means.
Next week, as we turn to the story of how God pursues us and rescues us despite our sin, I hope you remember that Jesus doesn’t just save us from our minor mistakes – i.e. when I was in third grade I used the Lord’s name in vain – he saves us from ourselves. He saves us from our rebellion and adultery and self-centeredness. This is why the gospel is such good news.