Many years ago, a wise man said to me, “You have to have a theology of sin. Without it, we give false expectations to Christians, especially new Christians, about sin.”
To expound on this, we often raise our kids or teach new Christians about the power of God and Jesus to overcome the power of Satan. We teach and re-teach the verse that there is no temptation that has overcome us except that which is common to man, and we also emphasize that God will always provide a way out of temptation.
Somewhere along the line, we forget about verses such as the one where Paul, who wrote about half of the New Testament, refers to himself as the chief among sinners. And just so we’re clear, that’s towards the end of his Christian life.
The reason that this is important is that when they first take part in sin, they have no way to deal with the shame, and their reaction is often to just give up on following God.
That is why I call what is written below the most important thing you can know about living the Christian life.
When I teach middle school Sunday School at my church, I always throw out the first lesson plan of the year (apologies to my Kid’s Community director if you are reading this) and I do the following.
I use my considerably awful drawing skills to draw a road. About halfway down that road, I put a single dot. About 20% of the way down the road I put several dots. I’m the halfway down the road dot and the kids are the others.
Then I teach them the most important lesson of the Christian Life.
1) The Christian Life is a long road
It’s not about getting excited for a season. It’s about joining with Christ for the long haul.
It’s a marriage except death doesn’t make you part ways. I’ve been on this road for a very long time. Sometimes the road leads you to Dunkin Donuts (theologically speaking) and sometimes it leads you to what feels like the Desert of Raw Sewage.
2) Everyone gets off the road
Sin is getting off the road. I’m not trying to minimize the spiritual significance of sin or the work of Christ on the cross or any of that. But the road in this lesson is the road of walking with Christ.
And everyone gets off that road.
When I’m sinning, I’m not walking with Christ, at least not in that moment. Yes, I’m still a Christian, still heaven-bound, etc, and I am still walking in the same general direction. But for the moment, the hike-leader is forging ahead, and I’ve turned off to follow bear scat thinking that finding a bear might be fun.
The point is that whether you get off the road for a foot and come back, or a hundred yards, or a hundred miles, EVERYONE GETS OFF THE ROAD.
One of the problems of our current age of Christianity is the pretending that we don’t sin. Everyone sins. Mother Theresa, the most beloved Christian of the past fifty years, sinned. Probably every day. Billy Graham. Whoever you want to list. They all sinned.
Can we just stop pretending that we don’t sin?
3. God always wants you back (and so do I)
There is no too far to come back to God.
I’m not encouraging to keep going away from the road, but no matter where you wake up, God wants you back. Not reluctantly either.
God’s not up there saying, “Well, I made them a deal so I guess I have to take them back.”
Go and read the story of the Good Samaritan.
Every day, God “gets up” and goes to the hill and looks for YOU. And says to Himself, “Maybe today is the day my son or daughter will return.”
Paul murdered Christians.
David murdered one of his Mighty Men and stole the man’s wife.
So if you’re off in the weeds, you’ve got good company.
And here’s some news for you, I will be there to welcome you back, always. I know you don’t know me, but maybe we will meet.
But even if we don’t, there are a lot of communities of believers that will welcome you back. You may have to hunt a bit, but you can find one.
But even if you can’t find one, know this:
God is waiting. God wants you back. Today. Right now.
You haven’t gone too far.
There is always a way back to His love.