Yet another influential Christian is sharing the limelight with his own sin this week. It’s not a pastor this time. This time, it’s “one of us”. This time it comes with a trademark reminder to check our own hearts.
Does it really matter so much? Should his career really take a dive because of this? Should our ability to support ourselves suffer because of personal sin?
I mean, no one is pressing charges against him. We didn’t support his work because we saw him as a spiritual authority. We like him because he wants to use his gifts and talents to serve God. He does so much good. Why should that have to stop because of a personal battle with sin? Isn’t all sin the same in the eyes of God? When someone asks for forgiveness, shouldn’t we give it to them?
But, yes; it matters.
It all matters because of the cosmic context of work, sin, and forgiveness.
God’s original means of spreading His Kingdom was through the work of humans. As in literal, physical, ground-breaking work. If we travel back to Genesis 1-2, we find a vision of God’s garden temple spreading throughout all of earth through the vocation and procreation of humans (see posts from Oct 29&30).
However, this same passage shows us the ONLY way to expand God’s Kingdom is by imaging God as we work. If our actions are imaging anything other than God, then they are not expanding God’s Kingdom but are rather tearing it down.
Sin can be understood as the *failure* to image God. Our actions image, or reflect, whatever it is we set our hearts and minds on. Therefore, when we are reflecting anything other than God’s character and ways, that’s a loud, flashing red light warning we need to pay attention to. It’s telling us that our hearts are set on something other than God.
Many people have observed that we become like what we worship. NT Wright puts it into perspective this way: “Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sex objects.” Wright also asserts that this is, in fact, idolatry.
Simply put, we can only expand the Kingdom of God by reflecting God’s character and ways into the world. For this we have to be very intentional about directing our worship to God.
But sin is sin, right?
Yes and no. Yes, all sin separates us from God. We ALL need forgiveness from our sin. But sin also differs in the degree to which it deviates from God’s image.
Sin puts a barrier between us and God, and it exiles us from His Presence. Think about Adam and Eve leaving the garden. Think about the Israelites having to leave the Promised Land. In both situations, they had to leave the proximity of God’s Temple, where His tangible Presence dwelt. When the Israelites came back from exile, God’s Presence had left. Their prayers for a Messiah were a pleading for God to come back! When God came back, they would no longer be in exile.
*Confessing* sin is declaring “this action doesn’t reflect God.” However, to *repent* of sin is to say, I’m changing my mind about acting this way. I’m going to set my desires on God and focus on reflecting His character and ways.
However, forgiveness is key to this.
So what is forgiveness?
When Jesus told followers, “You are forgiven”, He was telling them, “You aren’t in exile from God’s Presence anymore!” To be forgiven is to get to come back into the Garden, to realign our hearts to worship and reflect God! It is to be welcomed back to the Kingdom of God.
Even if we are “in Christ”, unconfessed and unrepentant sin puts up barriers that prevent us from reflecting God.
This brings us back to “Kingdom work.” Remember, we can only expand the Kingdom to the extent we are imaging God. However, we sabotage that work to the extent we aren’t imaging God. Especially when it causes harm to others. It’s like working with a burning rag attached to our feet. The more ground our influence covers, the more ground we have to sabotage.
This work is not limited to pastoral ministry. We can image Him as homemakers, as business owners, as nurses, as teachers, as senators, as comedians. But in order for it to be Kingdom work, we must be image-bearers who reflect the character and ways of God.
This is why Jesus came: to re-create us as God’s image bearers. To heal *all* of our cracked and broken ways, so that our work can reflect His perfect and *un*broken ways.
Let’s put it this way. Healing us was more important to Jesus than His own life. Healing us is so important that He will bring it into the limelight if that is what it takes for us to deal with it. We simply can’t do the work He wants us to do until we submit to His healing.
How do we do this?
1) Check your actions. Are they imaging God? Then check your heart. What is it desiring instead of God?
2) Confess it, change your mind about it, Set your heart on desiring God instead. Ask a Christian to vocalize Christ’s forgiveness.
3) Let Christ’s forgiveness bring you into His presence so that healing can begin. Remember that Christ is also present through His people. He doesn’t intend for us to heal on our own.
But the work of deep healing happens not on spotlighted platforms, but in the cloisters of quiet sanctuaries.