Sin Is Strong; It Is Not Stronger Than Christ
by Dan Kidd
One of the many reasons sin is so destructive and harmful is that it can warp the way we understand ourselves and our relationship to the God who created us to know him and love him. On the one hand, we can recognize the weight and wickedness of our sin and then fall prey to the enemy, who will seduce us into believing that we are too broken and too wayward for anything good to come of us. The enemy will poison us with the lie that the finished work of Christ is too little to save us from our miserable mess, to restore shalom to the worst parts of our world, or to transform us into the people we were created and intended to be. Sin is strong. It is not stronger than Christ.
On the other hand, we might be tempted, as so often is the case throughout the Biblical witness, to believe that sin isn't all that awful. The enemy will seed in us the lie that, because we are reconciled to God, we need not worry about sinning here and there, in a few choice ways (that don't make us nearly so bad as the truly terrible people around us). This simply is not so! As often as we sin we disrupt the way and will of God's Kingdom in our lives and in the world around us. Jesus, speaking with his disciples, said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." Our sinfulness denies our love of Jesus. And it's not only that our sin affects our relationship with God, it also does damage to the world, creatures, and people around us in ways that we may or may not ever fully appreciate. Sin is strong. It is not stronger than Christ.
Today's passage is a sobering reminder of how easily we are diverted from God's way, and how disastrous that can be. It was generally agreed upon in Jesus' day that adultery was a grievous sin (remembering how the teachers and Pharisees brought the woman caught in the act to Jesus to be stoned, though we might note the man was absent for this trial). A sin like this was easy enough to peer down one's nose about, as one shook their head in self-righteous disapproval. But Jesus knew the human condition intimately, and he would not let such hypocrites go unaccused. Not only is adultery grievous, but it is as common as a lustful look. Because that too--thirsting for intimacy with someone promised to someone else--is destructive. It is unhealthy for us, for our relationship with the Lord who intends otherwise for us, and unhealthy for the individuals we lust after. Our sin, like lust, like divorce, not only harms and mars us, but it harms and mars those we sin against.
No wonder Jesus' words are so firm. "It is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." Sure. This is exaggeration; to a point. Certainly we who sin don't feel the compulsion to dismember ourselves. I've never known a Christian to do so. But we would be profoundly mistaken to miss the severity of this warning about sin. Sin does true damage to us, and the world around us, and we dare not proceed in it without proper appreciation for how awful it is.
But the final word is this: Sin is powerful. It is not more powerful than Christ. Imbued with the Holy Spirit, we have hope in the fruit--the transformation--that can be done to us and through us. As the refiner's fire burns away the chaff of our sinfulness--puts to death our old selves--we are being made into the saints we were always intended to be; in part now, in full at the resurrection. Only when we appreciate how deathly sin is can we truly grasp the width, length, height, and depth of Christ's redeeming love for us, and cling to the hope that Jesus sets us free from the chains of sin and lights the path in front of us.
A Prayer of Confession and Pardon - Almighty and most merciful Father, I have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. I have followed too much the devices and desires of my own heart. I have offended against Your holy laws. I have left undone those things which I ought to have done; and I have done those things which I ought not to have done; and there is nothing good in me. O Lord, have mercy upon me, miserable offender. Spare those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent; according to Your promises declared unto us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Grant that I may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; to the glory of His name. Amen