Saturday, 14 November 2015

An Unpopular Topic!

Dan Graber, Mennonite Church Alberta conference minister, is our speaker for Nov. 15. He has chosen Romans 7:14-25, a passage that talks about our human propensity toward sin.

I'm losing 10 pounds. In the interest of keeping ankles and knees functional into my senior years, I want to take the stress of them now, and keep it off for the 30 pus years.

At least that is what I want, but I am a slave to zesty cheese Doritos. I do not understand what I do when I snack before bed.I want to stop eating after a modest supper, but I do not. I go ahead and eat the hateful fatty deliciousness, all the while knowing that the rule of not eating before bed is good. I am so trapped by habit that it is no longer me doing it, but the craving living in me....

There are ways every person resonates with Paul's message in Romans 7. While we know what is good for us and others, we still find ourselves, like automatons, doing the very things that we want to stop doing.

It's a helpful way to bring up a topic most of us do not want to address. Sin. It can be an uncomfortable topic because of disagreements over the definition and our ideas of judgement/consequences. Staying with this passage, for the moment, Paul's definition is rather clear. He is not doing the things he understand to be right, he is actively doing what he knows is wrong. We can argue the definitions forever, allowing us to avoid doing anything about those things we already understand. We already understand that greed is wrong, but it seems very few people are free of the desire for more than their share. We know we are hurting the environment, but we don't even do the simple things, (like turning down the heat, line drying instead of using the dryer, walking, using public transit, driving less....) that are easy to do because we can't seem to stop ourselves from taking the easy way out.

What about speaking up against injustice? In the last few weeks, both my husband and I have found ourselves in the middle of conversations where the predominant expressed view is judgement and condemnation of Muslim people and Syrian refugees. "Islamophobia" is prevalent in our supposedly enlightened and educated society!!!We both managed to speak up a little against the unfair stereotyping, but it is remarkably hard to do, and to do it in a way that helps instead of hinders the discussion. We know it is right to speak for justice, but it can be very difficult to say anything into a group situation where a few loud voices are setting the tone.

When we read Romans, we tend to think of sin as limited to individual actions, but for Paul, it is almost (and maybe mostly) about power. It is about being caught up in systems and feeling helpless to speak against them.

There is challenge here for the individual to stop "doing what they hate" and to do what they know is right. That takes courage. It takes courage to speak into groups. It takes courage to speak into systems that perpetrate injustice (especially when we are benefactors of those systems).

We are challenged, but it's hard for a slave (as we all are to those things we keep doing even though we know better) to feel they can triumph. Paul also points to hope.

Verse 25: Thanks be to God, though Jesus Christ our Lord! We are not left alone with our sin, but helped, forgiven, and saved. We can get up after failures, and keep trying, knowing that slavery to what is destructive is not inevitable. Take courage. By following Jesus' example, and God's law, there is freedom from sin-freedom from those things we do not want to do."

Question: If you had to answer the question; what is sin, how would you answer?

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