Every sin, no matter how small, creates a chasm between us and the other that we are not able to cross. Every transgression makes a mess that we are ill-equipped to clean up. Sin is something so easy to do, but it is impossible to repair. With our actions we fracture other people so badly that even the best of our actions would never restore the relationship to what it once was.
When we sin, we are like a child who just burned down our home – completely guilty and completely helpless. A small action by small fingers, lights a match that burns a big house down.
We don’t really believe this though do we? Some sins, like adultery or murder are obviously “that bad.” But other sins like lying or lusting are, well, not “that bad.” Most of the time we don’t notice how bad they are until we are found out by another individual.
We see the damage in the tears or expressions of the person against whom we have transgressed.
Because we don’t believe the devastating nature of sin, we leave the mess unaddressed – like a husband who expects his wife to be okay after he lets her know he doesn’t plan on committing adultery any more; like a wife who simply disciplines herself out of the habit of gossip; and like a college student who reads a book on procrastination in an effort to break the cycle.
We have fooled ourselves into thinking if we stop the behavior the mess will go away. Our right actions will mop the bloody floor. We actually think that we can make the [burned] house come back by saying, “I won’t play with fire ever again.”
Once more, all of these actions fail to recognize the personal nature of sin – that, though we are in control to commit the sin, we surrender our control (by that very action) to repair it. Once the deed is done, we are completely at the mercy of the other to make things right. Nothing we do will do – no matter how good that doing may be.
Sin makes us, for all practical purposes, dead – and desperate. The life we need must come from the person we have deeply offended. It is their blood on the floor. Our bloody mop has only spread it around. Only their clean mop will do.
And that is why the gospel is so good. Christ, in his great mercy, mops up our mess. He repairs the breech and crosses the chasm. His cleanness takes away our dirtiness. His death brings us life. He personally restores things beyond what they once were. He makes us new.
Changing behavior will never work. Only honest repentance and full reliance upon the person and work of Christ can cure the curse of sin. This is why a change in countenance tends to bring about forgiveness more than change in behavior. This is why we can be both sinner and saint. Humble repentance and faith is the way of life. Christ is the good news we all must hear, love, and proclaim.