Tag Archives: book of romans

Transgression

It’s easy to feel remorse for a transgression—a sin—the morning after you’ve spent a long night thinking about how stupid you were, how foolish you were when you, at the time, envisioned yourself so clever, so stealth. It’s easy to ask for God’s forgiveness in the midst of this remorse. You know, the old, “I’m so sorry that I screwed up. Please forgive me. It will never, ever, ever happen again.” You might even add, “. . . and this time I’m serious.”

You already know what’s going to happen; usually within days of your “great regret”.

During the temptation, during the “build up” to the actual transgression itself, that’s when it becomes the hardest. That’s when, even though your rational mind says, “maybe you shouldn’t be doing this”, emotion, desire, or good old-fashioned addiction takes over. The still, small voice gets shoved aside by the raging tide of excitement, desire and craving. You can surround yourself with helpful platitudes, little sayings that remind you of how you feel afterwards. It doesn’t matter. They’re just noise at that point. Your craving is in full force. The addiction rules.

Then it’s over. The craving is satiated, the desire fulfilled.

And the remorse sets in.  Almost immediately.  As you knew it would.

Yet you gave in anyway.

Remorse leads to regret. Regret leads to grief. Grief leads to self-loathing. Self-loathing leads to beseeching. Beseeching leads to buoyancy. Buoyancy leads to self-assurance.

But time passes . . .

Self-assurance leads to complacency. Complacency leads to boredom. Boredom leads to craving. Craving to . . .

Transgression.

Then you sit up for half the night wondering when this stupid, vicious cycle is ever going to end. Wondering why you cave into these useless temptations knowing full well there is no good within them. Wondering where your inner-strength is. Wondering where is, or if you even have, self-will.

And inevitably, if you’re a believer, wondering where God is.

It’s called the cycle of addiction.

Believers get the added bonus of the God card at no extra cost.

How do you overcome it?

You can’t.

Not on your own. And it’s more even than just God. You need people. You need to trust someone, anyone. You need to tell someone of your struggle. Odds are the person you tell will say, “Yup. Been there, done that.”

That’s what happened with me. It was actually surprising how “normal” my own addiction was. Here I thought it was just this big, secret thing that only I had ever struggled with. Yet someone else had gone through it before me . . . One of my pastors.

So, find someone, anyone.

One caveat . . .

I’d also like to tell you it goes away, but it doesn’t. You’ll struggle, you’ll stumble, and occasionally you will fall.

And with that fall will come another voice, different from the still, small inner-pleading that came before. This voice will tell you you’re not strong enough to overcome; that you have no willpower to resist; that you’ll always fall . . .

. . . that there is no one there to help you.

Giving in to that voice is the true tragedy in this whole vicious cycle. This struggle is even more difficult, at times, than the addiction itself; and easier to surrender to . . .

“You’re right.”

Two little words and the losses are so much greater than the remorse and grief of falling to temptation.  For with this little utterance you’ve lost hope.  Hope in yourself, hope in your overcoming, hope in finding relief, hope in a future and, ultimately, hope in God.

You see, you’re not just fighting an addiction here. You’re at war. Whether you believe in any kind of higher power or not, every soul that fails in hope is a casualty.

And that is a true, total and final loss indeed.

Job 6:11  What strength do I have, that I should still hope?    What prospects, that I should be patient?

Romans 5:3-5  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Advertisements

Faith & Spiritual Drift: Holy Wha….??

I have an ongoing debate with my father-in-law about the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy . . .” You see, my family and I go to church, but we go on Sunday. My in-laws are of the Seventh Day Adventist faith, and go to church on Sabbath (or Saturday).

So, who’s right?

I joke that I would hate to be sitting in hell between Charles Manson and Adolph Hitler as one of them turns to ask me, “Hey, what’re you in for?”

“Uuhh, well . . . I went to church on the wrong day.”

Ouch!

Actually, I get along really well with my wife’s family. They’re very accepting of our differences and we actually have some lively yet productive discussions on faith as we sit around the dinner table. As it should be . . .

But what of those who don’t have such acceptance or, at least, tolerance?

What of those that truly believe “Sunday-keeping” is not only wrong, but we who practice it are an instrument of the enemy? What of those that believe the foods we eat make us “clean” or “unclean”? What of those that believe listening to a certain type of music or, God forbid, dancing, makes us no better than pagans? That any and all of these things are not only wrong for them, they’re wrong for everyone.

That’s unfortunate. (Anyone who knows me, knows that I use this term as the nicest, most politically correct way of saying that something, to me, is B.S.—see the difference?)

I love the book of Romans. Paul is very pointed in his outline of what faith looks like; the actions and mindset of a Christ follower.  In chapter 14 he makes it very clear how he feels about people’s judgements of one another over certain practices.  Here’s just a sample:

1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s (i.e. God’s) servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

In other words, you are accountable only to one, or One. And this is not a “live and let live”, nor is it an “anything goes” principle. To each person is the accountability to God for their actions; if you do something, you do it to the glory of God. Is drunkenness glorifying God? Is gluttony? Yet, is having a hamburger, a beer or glass of wine, or going to church on Sunday, or Thursday, preventing you from your ability to glorify God?

Of course not. Still, there is another side of the coin in Romans 14:

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.

Is having that hamburger in front of a brother or sister whose faith places dietary restrictions on them a “stumbling block”? Is having that beer in front of a recovering alcoholic a “stumbling block”? Is trying to convince a Sabbath-keeping believer that the fourth commandment isn’t that important anymore a “stumbling block”?

Absolutely: Because, to them it is important.

What’s right for one person is right for them. What’s wrong for one person is wrong for them. And to flaunt your differences or to condemn those who are different because they’re not “just like you” isn’t right for anyone. After all, you’re just as likely to trip on your own stumbling block as is your neighbor.

Ouch!