All You Sinners Stand Up, Sing Hallelujah
We're taking a little detour from the #chemodiaries today, because I have a confession to make.
I'm a sinner, y'all.
And God loves me anyway. Just like He loves each of you, regardless of your specific brand of sin.
And I am pretty sure some of you need to hear that today.
* * *
"I just don't know. I just don't see how I can sit in a church knowing that the people in the same row as me think people I care about are destined for hell. I don't believe that. So how can I sit there?"
We ended up deep in a discussion of the distinctions between church, religion, and God, and how it seems to me that no particular church or religion has yet captured who I believe God really is. Don't get me wrong - I love church for so many reasons - but I've come to accept that no matter what church I walk into - what house of worship of any religion for that matter - there are going to be some things that we just have to agree to disagree about. We are often on different pages when it comes to what constitutes a sin in the first place. We often disagree about the ramifications of our sins.
No one is perfect, but we are called to love each other anyway. To me, the same principle applies to church.
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Love the sinner, hate the sin. We've all heard that phrase, right? I see where the people who use it are going, I do. I'll tell you what, though. I hate that phrase.
Because I think in many ways, God loves both the sinner and our sins.
Yes. I really said that.
* * *
Lets be honest about a few things. Each and every one of us is a sinner in our own way. Whether your particular brand of poison is gossip or dishonesty or anger or envy or addiction or something else from the incredibly long list of potential sins, you're a sinner. And God created each of us, knowing full well that we were going to sin. There are so secrets from God, folks. He knows. No matter how much we try to kid ourselves. And, most importantly, even knowing we will sin again and again - God loves us and never leaves.
* * *
I thought I had everyone fooled for awhile - even myself. Definitely the people in my life. And God too.
But Step Four requires that we take a "searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." To accomplish this, we sit with ourselves and write down all the things we've done - all the sins we've committed. Its a humbling experience, and I have yet to meet someone who says they felt good about themselves in the immediate aftermath of their first fourth step.
And then comes Step Five - "[a]dmitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."
I could barely conceive of completing my first fifth step. I had only just admitted the things I had listed in my inventory to myself. How would I ever admit them to another person and God?
As I sat with my sponsor reviewing my past with a level of detail I never had before - discussing my sins and my weaknesses, laying the all out of the table for another person to see - tears flowed and my face flushed and if there was an easy exit I am pretty sure I would have run out the door and kept going until I reached the sea. But I made it through and she hugged me and told me I am no different from her or from anyone else.
And then she left me alone to discuss my inventory with God.
And hour later, He told me nothing on my list surprised Him. He knew all along. And then He made me realize the most amazing thing of all.
He pursued me anyway
* * *
I've always known God. From the time I was small, we've talked and I've felt Him with me. There has never been a doubt in my mind that He was there. What I wasn't really clear on was what He could need me for. I couldn't see any place for me in His plans for the Kingdom.
And as I found myself more and more lost down my own wormhole of sin, I became convinced that I was such a bad person that what I did just didn't matter anymore. Surely God had given up on me.
Only He hadn't
He pursued me through the muck and the madness. I always felt Him there, but tried my best to ignore Him. I tried to push Him away and block Him out, but He was relentless. He pursued me all the way to one of my most shameful moments, into a dark and solitary space where He whispered to me that He still loved me - and always had. But that I really needed to get my act together so He could use me to carry out His will.
He never gave up on me. Even when I gave up on myself.
God didn't care that I was a sinner. He loved me anyway. He loved me enough to pursue me without fail.
I wish I could tell you that from that moment on I was sinless. That would hardly be true (although the sins I grapple with have certainly changed). But He continues to pursue me.
Every single day.
God doesn't hate me. And He doesn't hate my sin. He uses it to draw me closer to Him.
* * *
In the end, this is what I told my friend.
I believe that God came to earth in human form for many reasons. One of those - maybe the most important - was to show us how we could create heaven here on earth. It simple - by loving one another.
Jesus didn't push people away because He believed them to be sinners. He drew them closer. He loved them harder.
It not for me - or anyone else - to decide what constitutes a sin. In the end, only God quite knows for sure. But it doesn't really matter in the end. Our mandate is the same.
Love each other.
Love yourself enough to be honest with God.
And let Him pursue you.