Today in church the sermon hinted at a concept I pondered about some time ago. The basic idea is that sin is defined as missing the mark. It’s not defined by a list of wrongs, it is defined by good things going undone.
I wrote about this at great length a while ago, and I find it’s still a concept that is just barely getting into my head and heart. I think of myself as a decent Christian. I go to church, I give, I volunteer my time. I don’t drink, smoke, or tell dirty jokes. I avoid certain movies and I don’t break the law.
So what? Does any of that really matter? What good am I doing? As I think about that, I realize the challenge of Christianity is so incredibly hard. Jesus called us to take up our cross and follow him, and that’s about how hard it is. It’s not pew-warming on Sunday, it’s choosing to do hard and difficult things every day, every hour. It’s choosing to be uncomfortable and socially awkward, and possibly even put yourself in danger. It’s complete denial of self, and I think that’s an unheard of concept for us today.
There is such a lethargic, apathetic spirit permeating Christianity. I know it squelches my life, and I let it. How can so many millions go to church every day and completey miss it? How can we be so ineffective?
Christianity has become an inheritance, a faith passed down from our parents that entitles us to eternal life.
But John the Baptist warned the Israelites not to get comfortable with their inheritance: “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and throw into the fire.” (Luke 3:8-9, NRSV)
That was the precurser to the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist went on to call the people simply to do what was right. He called for social justice, for those with extra to give to those who have none. He called the tax collectors to collect only what was right. He called the soldiers to do their jobs and not threaten or extort anyone. He didn’t call anyone to a strange or difficult journey. He just asked them to do what they were supposed to do.
Why is that so difficult? Why is it so hard for us to do simply what we’re supposed to do? I would guess that apathy is not a recent plague upon the human race, but something that has daunted us throughout time.