Category Archives: Virtue & Vice

Sin Always Hurts

 

sin always hurts

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

“Well, I believe that ____ is a sin because I am a Christian, but I just don’t feel I have a right to force my beliefs on others…  

…I mean, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone…

It sounds straightforward enough, right?  And in our culture, one of the the worst things you can be accused of doing is “forcing” your beliefs on someone.  Unfortunately, the underlying premise of this sort of statement is that sin doesn’t always hurt.

But that’s simply not true.

Sin always hurts.  Sin hurts God, first and foremost.  But sin also hurts us, because we are created to live in communion with God, and sin damages our ability to come into relationship with our Creator.  Choosing to sin stems from passions that are out of order which, when not corrected, lead us to choose things that might seem appealing, but in reality are not good for us.

This is true of all sin and for all people–whether they are Christians or not.  Lying is bad for the believer and the unbeliever alike.  Unchastity hurts both the Christian and the agnostic.  Sin is not good for us, no matter who we are.

But wait, there’s more!  Sin doesn’t just hurt God and the one sinning, sin hurts everyonebecause no one sins in a vacuum.  Our choices always have an effect on those around us, for better or for worse.  Lying is an affront to the dignity of whomever you’re lying to, because you’re effectively saying they aren’t worthy of the truth.

Even the sins we call “private,” these still affect our neighbors, because we carry the effects of our sins around with us, to everyone we meet.  When I habitually choose to do things that are damaging to my soul, it absolutely affects me as a person, and so it absolutely affects my ability to engage in the kinds of healthy and constructive relationships that I am supposed to have with other people.  When this happens on a large enough scale, everybody loses, because it facilitates a culture in which virtually no one is capable of true, virtuous friendship.  So sin—even so-called “private sin”— creates a culture of selfishness.  Sound familiar?

But here’s the real crux for those of us who say we are Christians.  If we can pretend that it is possible to commit sin “without hurting anyone,” what we’re really saying is that Jesus or no Jesus–it doesn’t really make a difference.  We’re effectively saying that sin is just some arbitrary, made-up construct, and our Savior has nothing real to offer the world.

Is that what we believe?  Because it is certainly not what Christianity teaches.

If Jesus is real, then sin always hurts.  And if Jesus is real, then sin is what He says it is.  Meaning: We don’t get to decide that just because something Jesus calls sin doesn’t look like it is hurting our neighbors, that it is somehow not a sin in that case.  Even when we are not fully culpable for our sinful actions–due to poor formation or whatever–those sins can still cause damage in our lives.

That’s the truth of the matter.  If we say we are Christians, then we cannot ever hold that sin is harmless. Because Jesus isn’t a liar.

So what does this mean for our day-to-day lives?  I think it means that we start, if we haven’t already, to pray that the Holy Spirit would “inspire us with the horror of sin.”  Because I think that if we are striving to live our lives according to the Spirit of God, we would be horrified by sin–all sin.  And if we’re not horrified by sin, then it means something is off in how we relate to God and to our neighbor, and needs to be made right.

So let’s ask that Jesus would “break our hearts for what breaks His.”  Let’s ask that He show us how we are to really love Him and how we are to really love our neighbor.  Not by pretending that sin is harmless, but by giving us the conviction that our Savior who died for our sin invites us—all of us— to freedom from sin.

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The King Who Skipped The Battle To Take A Nap

If you have been following along the daily readings this week, then you know we have been in King David’s story.  And even though most of us are pretty familiar with the story, today’s Old Testament reading still stings each time I read it.

David, the giant-slayer . . . David, The man after God’s own heart . . . The one who refused to put his hand on God’s anointed even when his own life was at risk . . . David, the divinely appointed King.

David messes up, bad.

How bad?  Adultery and murder, bad.

David’s story is important.  As young people we hear a lot of rousing stories of how God can redeem even the most corrupt and crooked sinners among us.  The St. Augustines, who, one day finally repent of a life of sin and give their lives over to Jesus.  And, just like that (it is often assumed): Sainthood.  But the truth is that it’s usually not as clean-cut as that.

David’s story is closer to the reality, I think.  Sure, perhaps most of us will never have someone killed in attempt to cover up another one of our sins, but neither is it likely to be the case that once we fall in love with God our days of royally screwing up (no pun intended) are totally in the past.

David is the story of the good guy who, from the time he was a boy, sought to please God and, truly, had a heart for God.  It wasn’t all rules and motions for David. David knew God.  He loved God.

But even David managed to screw up.  And it is important for us to understand how and why that could happen, even for someone who loved God as much as David did.

How did David begin to fall into sin?  Because he chose to take a nap instead of go into battle.

At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign, David sent out Joab along with his officers and the army of Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.
David, however, remained in Jerusalem.

One evening David rose from his siesta
and strolled about on the roof of the palace.
From the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.

2 Samuel 11:1-2

Notice: At the time of the year when kings go out on campaign, David, who is a king himself, is home enjoying the comforts of his palace, taking leisurely afternoon naps while expecting other men to fight his battles.

Today, we have the advantage of knowing the ending to David’s story, and it is a happy one.  Still, we can learn a lesson from David.  Yes, the grace of God is available no matter how many times we fall, and no matter how far we fall.

But we also need to remember that the battle for our soul is waging every day.  Are we at home taking a nap?  Or are we out in the fight?

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Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

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“When Does It Stop?” – Breaking The Cycle of Sin

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It is something I learned from my grandfather’s preaching while I was growing up: Sin cycles.

You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.…

(Exodus 20:5-6)

Recently, All For God Ministries shared a powerful clip from Jackie Francois-Angel on their Facebook page which witnessed to this reality (unfortunately I can’t embed the video here because it is a Facebook video…c’mon Facebook!).

“If you were abused,” she says, “you’re more likely to abuse…” Divorce, pornography, anger, etc., — all of these sins have a tendency to be passed down through generations, and from perpetrator to victim, creating a kind of cycle of sin.

To be honest, I was always a bit freaked out by hearing this.  And on the one hand, it is scary.  Look around at all the junk in the world and you can see the grim reality of the cycle of sin.  Doesn’t it seem hopeless at times?

Better not accumulate any baggage, I used to think when the topic of generational sin would come up.  And better find someone to marry who doesn’t have any, either, or else our kids will pay the price. 

Of course that is not really the point.  In reality we are all born into the cycle of sin.  We all bear the original sin of our first parents, and each of us is affected in some way by the choices–good or bad–of the families to which we belong.

Yes, all sin hurts us, and if we do nothing, the cycle of sin can destroy us and even threatens to rip our families apart.

But it’s not hopeless.  Thanks to Jesus, we get a choice.

“When does it stop?”  My grandpa would say when he would preach on this, “It stops when someone stands up and claims the Holy Spirit as Lord of the family.”  It stops when we, as Jackie says in the clip, “plant the Cross of Christ in our hearts,” and decide we don’t want it anymore.  It stops when we realize that we cannot break free from the cycle on our own, but that Jesus wants to—and actually can—free us.

So we ask the Holy Spirit to be real in our lives.  We begin to follow Jesus with the conviction that He is alive and actually working in our lives in every moment.  We choose to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to Jesus– every. single. day.

That’s how you break the cycle of sin.  Stand up and be free; it’s what you were created for.

But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 6:22-23)

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Jesus Is Not OK With Lying – (What I Learned As A Catholic In College, Part 3)

This week I am sharing with you the 4 things I learned as a Catholic in college.

So far we’ve covered why:

  1. Having a regular routine is important
  2. Your faith needs more than just routine

If you haven’t caught on yet, growing in faith really boils down to having a living relationship with Jesus.  This is why, especially in college, it is important to keep in mind: Jesus is not OK with lying.

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(OK, technically, I knew this before college.  But hear me out.)

Underage drinking and recreational marijuana will basically be expected of you as a college student.

As a Christian, however, you are called to more.

The act of drinking alcohol isn’t wrong or sinful; and we can debate the morality of recreational marijuana another time. Where both of these activities will threaten your soul is in the lifestyle that necessarily comes along with them in college. As an 18-20 year old drinking or smoking pot, you have to lie. You have to sneak around. Sure, “everybody” may be doing it, but the fact is that if your college dean found you with beer on your breath, or a blunt in your hand, you’d be in trouble—And you know this.

Making a habit of choosing to lie or sneak around in order to have fun will have damaging effects on your soul and your relationship with Jesus, I promise.  It sends a message to yourself that you’re someone who doesn’t always do the right thing, and Satan will so delight in reminding you of this when you find yourself facing temptation in other settings.

Choose instead to be a person of integrity.  Let your “yes,” mean yes, and your “no,” mean no. And always, always, always bring it to confession when you slip up.

Check back for tomorrow’s post: “The best way to keep your faith is to give it away”

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Has The Cross Made Me “Flawless”?

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I heard a song on the radio the other day making a pretty bold claim…

“No matter the hurt, or how deep the wound is, no matter the pain, still the truth is: The cross has made, the cross has made you flawless.”

(The song is called, Flawless, and it’s by the Christian band MercyMe)

It’s a bold claim sung to a catchy tune.  But is it true?

Has the cross made me flawless?

I think that any Christian–Catholic or otherwise–will be the first to admit we are not perfect.  We are all sinners!  That’s why we need a Savior.

The song isn’t disputing this.  As a Catholic, I believe that apart from Jesus and apart from the cross, I’m toast.  I believe when the Bible tells me that apart from Jesus, I can do nothing– NOTHING!  So when I “get it right,” it’s only by God’s grace.  And when I get it wrong, it’s God’s grace that calls me back.  I think the song and I are good on this front.  All is grace.

Where the song and I hit a rough patch is its explanation of what that grace actually looks like in daily life.

The song continues:

“Could it possibly be that we simply can’t believe that this unconditional kind of love would be enough to take a filthy wretch like this and wrap him up in righteousness? But that’s exactly what He did.”

 

I think the music video for this song does a good job of illustrating this point further.  In it, the band begins covered in gooey-gunk, and as the song progresses the gunk flies off of them until their suits are as white as the wall against which they are performing.

This is interspersed with images of Christians juxtaposed with phrases describing their “flaws.” Examples of these flaws include:

 “prone to selfishness”

“Lives with guilt from reckless living”

“often puts work as priority over family”

etc…

Towards the end of the song, as the band gets cleaner and cleaner, these “flaws” are covered, one by one with, the word, “Flawless,” as the people smile from ear to ear.

The cross has made them “flawless.”

Is Jesus “Enough”?

The song’s claim is that what Jesus did on the cross was “enough to take a filthy wretch like [me] and wrap him up in righteousness.”

It’s a really nice thought, and I mean that wholeheartedly.  The idea that Jesus loves us so much that He died for us, and that His love for us is so great that He doesn’t even care about all of the horrible ways in which we hurt Him, ourselves, and others.  He just wants to wrap us— filthy and wretched us— up in His righteousness and welcome us into His Kingdom.

It really is a nice thought.

But it actually stops short of what I, as a Catholic, believe Jesus did—and continues to do— for me through dying the cross.

Not There Yet

“But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name”

(John 1:12)

I’m prone to selfishness.  I can be a little judgmental.  I often have trouble trusting wholeheartedly in where God is leading me.  These are just some examples of my own flaws.

Because of the cross, I know that I am not defined by these flaws.  However, I also know through personal experience that these flaws didn’t suddenly go away the day I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.  I love Jesus and I want to be like Him, but I still find myself struggling with selfishness.  I still find myself struggling to trust.

That’s what I believe the cross did, and what the cross continues to do in my life.  The cross gives me the grace for the struggle.  The cross gives meaning to the struggle.  It gives me the grace to unite my struggle to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Jesus doesn’t need for me to pretend my struggle doesn’t exist simply because I believe that He died for me.  He actually wants me to struggle with Him, so that I may one day be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:17)

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24)

I believe that the cross is still in the process of making me flawless.  I pray that one day I will be able to sing along with the joyful refrain of this song as I behold my God face to face in Heaven.

Until then, I’m still a work in progress.

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