Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Once in a Blue Moon (01/06/11)
TITLE: Sin most uncommon
By Gregory Kane
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The problem predictably was sin. Dennis had struggled with one particular temptation for three, going on four, years. He had memorised specific scriptures to aid him in time of trial. He had gone up for prayer more times than he could remember, pleading for grace to live in the complete victory that his pastor was always proclaiming. He had confessed his abject failure so many times that even Dennis was becoming bored with hearing his words of contrition. Then his parents had taken him along to their Bible study group where he had listened to Elder Burrows teaching on First John. Every sin could be forgiven, the man had emphasised, every conceivable sin bar the one that leads inexorably to death. Elder Burrows hadn't taken the time to identify the unforgivable sin. He hadn't needed to. Dennis had known at once where God was pointing his unwavering finger of condemnation. In one soul-destroying moment, Dennis had understood that he was well and truly damned."
Of course poor Dennis hasn't really committed the unforgivable sin. We all realise that, don't we? And yet it's amazing how many Christians, young or old, torment themselves with the thought that they have somehow stumbled upon the one thing that God isn't prepared to overlook. The reality is altogether different. The unforgivable sin is as uncommon in Christian circles as a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich would be at a rabbinical knees-up.
The blood of Jesus covers all sin, purifies us from all unrighteousness. 1Jn 1:7 could hardly be plainer. Heb 9:14 promises that Christ's blood cleanses us from all sinful acts that lead to death. We may grunt an Amen to this or rattle off some words of pious dogma, but rarely do we actually stop to consider the full extent of God's offer of forgiveness. What about the parish priest who is carried along in the madness of some ethnic genocide and ends up taking a machete to his former communicants? Can such unfathomable brutality be excused? What about the drug dealer whose unbridled avarice condemns thousands to destitution, despair and death? Does religious remorse really count when its guilt-ridden tears fall only upon the floor of a prison cell? Is God ready to forgive the pervert, the pimp, the pornographer, the paid assassin, the embezzling politician?
The answer is, of course, yes. A glorious, unrestrained, exuberant, earth-shattering, Yes. But the scandal of grace is a two-way street: God forgives the penitent, not the Pharisee. The man or woman who is genuinely sorry receives an immediate and unconditional amnesty. The God who insists that we forgive our brother seventy times seven doesn't keep score on how often we crawl back to Him on bended knee. But woe betide the dabbler in religion who takes God's grace for granted. According to Luke 18:10-14, it was the corrupt, conniving, conman who went home justified because he recognised his sorry condition. By contrast the self-satisfied Pharisee hadn't a clue how far he had wandered from the Kingdom of Heaven.
God the Father takes great delight in forgiving his children. What he won't accept is the self-obsessed scion who's convinced that he is already perfect and has no need of another's mercy. Such arrogance is invariably myopic, finding fault in others but excusing every imperfection closer to home. Neither is this type of behaviour restricted to religious folk; the hardened atheist can be just as creative in excusing his own moral shortcomings. Sneering at the old rugged cross, the secular Pharisee storms away from man's only hope for redemption. He, not Dennis, is most surely damned.
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