Monday, November 10, 2014

Revisiting the Articles of Religion-- Part 7 Sin and Free Will

So it has been a few months but I am back with the series of revisiting the Articles of Religion as passed down through the Evangelical United Brethren. Today's stop is the topic of sin and free will. Sin is thought to be one of the most difficult topics in Christianity. Lets see what the article says, then chat about it.

 Article VII—Sin and Free Will
We believe humanity is fallen from righteousness and, apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, is destitute of holiness and inclined to evil. Except a person be born again, they cannot see the Kingdom of God. In their own strength, without divine grace, people cannot do good works pleasing and acceptable to God. We believe, however, people influenced and empowered by the Holy Spirit is responsible in freedom to exercise their will for good.

I am sorry if you have already had a rough day and this is one of the first things you are reading. This is some heavy stuff that on the outside does not seem very encouraging. In many traditions, this is where there is a discussion about original sin. While that would be a fun debate, as to whether there is original sin or not, the point is that if we go back to Adam and Eve, or to this morning we can find evidence for the fallen or broken nature of humanity. Regardless the form it takes, let's just call it good to say that sin is a part of the equation for all humanity. Tragically the established church likes to spend countless hours and dollars focused on sin. Every attempt is made to figure out what is sinful and what is not. Included in this is the gradation of sinful activities, apparently some sin counts more than other sins and therefore some is acceptable and some is an abomination. I cannot help but wonder what might happen if we focused more on the love and grace of Jesus Christ and pointing people to fall head over heels in love with Jesus.

This brings us to the free will side of the topic. Our lives are chuck full of choices. Before we are fully awake for the day we begin the process of making decisions, one snooze push or three? While it feels like there are more choices before us, choice is certainly nothing new to humanity. The greatest challenge and opportunity of our relationship with God is found in that we are free to make choices. It is the greatest opportunity because we can choose to live lives that show evidence of following
Jesus marked by grace and love. This really can only be a choice, we cannot demand it. This means we also have the choice to live however we see fit no matter what we might feel the teachings of Christ and the Scriptures have for us. God's love does not demand that we choose God, we can make another choice. At time God longs for us to choice a life that is faithful to the call of God. It appears that God has opened the door for one of the all-time greatest risks, leaving our faithfulness and embodiment of love and grace to choice.

More often than I'd like to think about it, I have made this choice poorly. There are also times when I have made a choice that allowed me to more fully experience God's love and grace as offered through Jesus Christ. You see that is the Good News of the Gospel. Our sin is not the end of the story, we can choose a different ending. Each person, each day, each moment is given the opportunity to exercise their free will and choose a life of forgiveness, love and grace. What is more, even when we blow it in the choice, we can still make a different choice.

Though the language is dated and archaic in many ways the concept is true and accurate. Sin is part of the equation for all people. We, the church would be much further a head is we stopped trying to quantify and qualify sin and simply pointed to Jesus. In fact many turn away from Jesus because we in the church spend so much time managing the sins of humanity that we cannot do anything about outside the grace, love and forgiveness of the God through Jesus Christ. What would happen if the people of God in the church chose to highlight the grace and the joy in choosing to follow Jesus more than the sin that we see in another person. I wonder if the Bride of Christ, the church, would once again become radiant.

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