I’m listening to a lecture on Augustine (iTunes U = free learning) and I’m prompted by a comment about Augustine’s reflections on his life. In an event where he stole fruit, he made the comment that he did not steal for the object itself, rather he stole for the thrill of the act. He stole because he loved evil. The lecture goes on to point out that Augustine was a sex-addict, living with a mistress for 13 years. In a prayer during that time Augustine prayed that he would be celibate… but not yet.
It’s really got me thinking about my own situation and how serious I take my sin. After Augustine’s conversion, he became a prominent advocate for celibacy in the church. For him, it was a serious issue; he had lived through the dark shadows of sin, challenged by the struggle and love for sin which is common to humanity. If we’re honest with ourselves, there is a struggle between the righteous and sinful life. Paul himself articulates it as such:
So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. (NLT; Romans 7:14-17)
I know that I, too often, find deep regret after defiant acts of sin. The case is that I find myself too lazy or too weak to fight the battle against sin and temptation. In my apathy to sin, I leave myself open to temptation; in my carelessness, I am ill-equipped to battle against the temptations of Satan. Like Paul it is not that I want to do what is wrong, but I find myself inadequate to stand in the face of temptation.
It is no fault of anyone but myself. God has given us the necessary power to stand our ground. James challenges believers: “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” (NLT; James 1:21) The following verse is just as crucial: “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” (v. 22) Let’s not kid ourselves, there is no excuse. God has enabled us by the word, that is–personified in Jesus our Lord, to stand.
Let’s get real. Sin is serious business. When we start to play down the reality of sin, the greater the damage that it will have, not only, in our lives and the lives of those around us.
[Further reading: Ephesians 6 – The armour of God]