Dirge of the Wretched

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I sat in the courtroom for jury duty and thought about the people and situations that featured there. My mind flitted about, thinking of the accounts they told while in the dock. Good and bad folk came to accuse and defend, but only the truth mattered here, although sometimes it must have been hard to confess. Truth reveals. As a juror I was “the system”, a peer to try my peers; yet I concluded how little difference there was between me and them, the ones who really were guilty. The only divergence I could posit was they acted on impulses I denied.

There may be no greater honesty in the scriptures than Paul’s treatise on the struggle with sin in Romans 7:14-25. “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (v. 19). Right there, in that rut of unrestrained desire, is where my heart seemed to best comprehend the thief and addict and abuser, all of them, and our similarity. No, I have never gone as far, but in my heart I have. We all have—because we’ve liked our sin. Because by it we get our way. Because there are things you and I lust for and sometimes spend considerable time wrangling into submission, if only in our minds. And because we give in because giving in is often the easiest way to get a small rest from the struggle.

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Allowing myself to confront this level of honesty forced me to regard the seriousness of the Cross with more singularity. There is no way to truly see your sinful nakedness and remain formulaic or casual about your salvation. It will make one uncomfortable in the least and sober about the essence of spiritual transformation at best. I hope you get that. This isn’t unlike the conversion stories of Brother Lawrence and Augustine and maybe your grandparents or someone you admire, people whose fire for God was and is fueled by their spiritual candor and utter need for him.

I know that just reading this is inwardly tough for some of us because we appear to have it all together spiritually but struggle inwardly—which proves that we all get it, this tussle with sin. We know how and when our heart and will threaten to desert the godly path and keep us saved but limping. Moreover, we know where we’d be if God hadn’t found us and must confess that he is still redeeming some areas of our lives. We still toy with temptation, play games, and deceive ourselves. Research shows that Christians live very much like non-Christians. It’s how the best of us get in some of the worst trouble. And if we take our cues from the world, we simply do what we feel is right, regardless of our faith.

But sin is no longer enjoyable once it forms chains.

There is a riveting scene in Spider-Man 3 between Spider-Man and Venom that conveys everything I’ve said and more. Peter Parker, if you’ll recall, once wore the symbiote suit—the black one—that is actually an alien lifeform that bonds itself with its host in several ways, altering it for its own evil purposes. Peter got himself free from it; however, Eddie has a grudge with Parker and acquires the suit and attempts to kill him. In the final scene between the two, Spider-Man battles Venom and frees Eddie from the symbiote. Yet when Spidey moves to destroy it, what does Eddie do? See for yourself.

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