another little bit

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There is a lot of hope in sin. Yes, we know all the condemnations and the denunciations. We know the lists of rules and how to break each one of them. We know sin is wrong and we know people will likely frown if we pursue it.

Yet, even with all of that there is a hope hiding underneath the muck and mire. It is not necessarily a hope borne out of conscious thought. Instead it is a hope which comes from our deepest yearnings and our deepest fears and all the deepest parts of our selves. We hope for a valued community of friends who we can depend on. We hope for security, so that when the day of trouble comes we will be alright. We hope for fulfillment, knowing deep in our souls we are doing something that matters. We hope for acknowledgement, desperate for someone to tell us what we need to hear; tell us that we exist for a reason and a purpose.

Eve was not told to eat the fruit because it was open rebellion. She took the fruit because it offered something she wanted. It offered knowledge and the promise of fullness. It offered a quick way to a deep longing. Eating that forbidden fruit was an expression of hope, an altogether unacceptable expression to be sure, but one borne out of quite acceptable longings.

So it continues. We all eat the fruit, yearning for knowledge. Open rebellion is quite rare really. Very few believe in God so strongly and so spitefully they will do things merely to reject him. Like Adam and Eve, people sin because they want, and they want without having an understanding of their wants, so end up wanting and doing wrongly.

We realize this and we realize there are ways to move forward and ways to move backwards, generally feeling bad about the latter even if we don’t embrace the former. We stumble and fall and enter into the darkness because even if it does not get us anywhere it is something. It is an expression and an attempt to at least, for a moment, mollify those deepest yearnings.

So, people make lists. To guard against moving in unacceptable ways they write those ways down and become hall monitors of themselves and society.

By creating the lists of what not to do and what not to do we have made a law, but this law is a persistence in shallow awareness. It is bulky. It is unyielding. It is unreflective of what God has been about all this time.

The problem is we do not read ourselves all that well. We look on the surface and make judgments. This is what courts have always done, and that is the model we follow. Indeed, we make God into the ultimate judge, perceiving the Last Day as an almost endless court session, each of us in line, each of us practicing our defense until we get to the front and are rendered speechless by the recitation of our despicable crimes. Humbled by our failings we plead for our just punishment. Only for those who have accepted his favor, Jesus lifts us to our feet and brings us into paradise. The others have their bail revoked and are taken into custody. Justly so. But for the grace of God there we all go.

It would be flirting with heresy to say this picture is entirely wrong. There’s a reason we have this image in our heads and it does illustrate a particular quality of our eternal reality.

However, if this is it, if this is all we think of when we think of God’s call in our lives, we are also flirting with heresy. God is the great judge. But he’s also someone more. He’s a lot more, and by limiting him to a single, harsh role we have neglected his broadness and majesty. We have created a picture of God from a single jigsaw piece. Yes, it’s a part, but the whole is so much more. Avoiding moving backwards is nothing. The only thing that really matters is moving forward. That’s why attention to the law can become such a persistent evil in itself, something the Pharisees found out when they were curiously bombarded by Jesus.

God is calling us, calling you, calling me, not towards judgment but towards fulfillment. He did not create so that he could exercise his power and will. He certainly did not create so that others could find fulfillment as hall monitors. He created out of an expression of love, a love so potent it is willing to endure slights and insults in order to pursue what is his goal in this world. God does judge, but God is the God of restoration.

It is in this restoration we see hope.

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