Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stop Trying to Stop Sinning, Part 1

What if the best thing you could do for your Christian life is to stop trying not to sin? What if your efforts to stop sinning are at best a waste of your time and at worst actually hurting your spiritual life?

While in high school, I worked at a pharmaceutical retail store similar to Walgreen's. My boss, an older Christian man with a charismatic personality, had a favorite question that he asked me repeatedly. I am sure he asked me this question at least once or twice a week. "Brad" he would say to get my attention. "Do you love Him?"

I knew he was referring to Jesus. I would answer affirmatively, slightly embarrassed at his forwardness. He would press further. "But do you really love Him?"

Jesus asked a similar question to Peter after the Resurrection. Walking beside the sea with Jesus, Peter's memory must have stung like salt in a wound. Despite his bold promise never to forsake Jesus, the cross had proven Peter's fortitude false. He had denied his Lord, his Friend, three times with a curse.Yet Jesus responds to Peter's unfaithfulness not with a curse, but with a question. "Peter, do you love Me?"

It's interesting that Jesus never mentions Peter's sin, though it seems very likely that it's the subject of both their minds. (After all, Jesus asks Peter this question a number of times equal to Peter's denials.) Jesus could have asked Peter: "Do you promise never to deny Me again?" Isn't this the approach we take with Jesus when we sin? We ask forgiveness, and we promise to never commit that sin again. Yet Jesus wasn't interested in whether Peter would deny Him again in the future. He was interested in whether Peter loved Him in the present.

Why would Jesus take this approach? Perhaps because He knew that Peter could have all the boldness in the world without requiring any love in his heart. As the Apostle Paul would later say, Peter could have even the courage to give up his body to be burned, but without love, gain nothing. On the other hand, a heart overflowing with love can spill only faithfulness to its beloved.

What if Jesus is less concerned with your potential to sin than He is in your potential to love Him? What if the preventative to sin is not vain promises bound to fail in our moments of testing? Rather, what if the antidote to sin is a heart that is ever growing in its capacity to love the One in whom there is no darkness? Christian, have you ever committed any sin while looking fully in love to the One who in love fully bore your sin?

Do you love Him?

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