Acts 8:26-40 Psalm 22:24-30 1 John 4:7-21 John 15:1-8
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Sin and Guilt have always been big in the Church. In the Old Testament Sin was thought of as being a communal error the Israelites and many other nations were punished by God for their communal sins. In the New Testament Sin comes down to the personal level. Throughout the last two thousand years people were terrorised by their own feelings of Guilt from Sin because Sin leads to eternal damnation. During all that time people had understood that they were responsible for the things they did and that they were expected to lead exemplary lives. They of course didn’t and gloom and doom reigned over them, and the Church offering redemption gained power and wealth – the Reformation cleaned that up.
As you recall, it was Adam who sinned first (it is through Adam that we all have sinned (1 Corinthians 15:22)) and he was pretty quick to blame God (another sin) for giving him the woman who gave him the Apple (Genesis 3:12) ‘it’s God’s fault’ he implied; ever since women have been seen as Temptation and ironically as both the helper of men and the one responsible for their downfall, Eve being the Mother of us all, was both temptress and betrayer. The woman, Eve, when blamed by Adam, was equally in fear of Guilt and immediately blamed the serpent. The serpent to his credit (?) didn’t deny its action.
So the centuries dragged on with everyone feeling a deep sense of Sin and Guilt. Today the Church still preaches Sin and Guilt but it goes over the heads of most people. I think we’ve been barking up the wrong tree for years. Today people don’t have much of a sense of Guilt. We build defences against feeling guilty. We quip ‘the Devil made me do it’ without any sense of what we are really claiming. We excuse others and ourselves with ‘what else could I have done ?’ And we are too ready to give the excuse of a rotten childhood or a bad experience with another person for our bad behaviours. Without a doubt those things shape us, all life experiences shape us, but it is up to us to overcome those things and do what is right and proper. The alleged van attacker and murderer Alek Minassian it seems might claim, or others allege, that his actions were caused by the women who rejected his advances and left him as an Involuntary Celibate, sex starved. There is many a man, and woman, who can make such an admission but wouldn’t use it as the rationale to harm others. I’m thinking of the Ethiopian Eunuch right now.
Instead of Guilt today people are plagued with Anxiety. Everyone seems to be anxious about something, about school, about today, about tomorrow, about relationships, about their welfare, about their acceptance in society, about sex. Guilt is not on their radar or if it is it’s only a blip on their horizon. Anxiety is the Cross they bear and the currency of their daily life.
The Church today needs to offer relief from Anxiety, not condemnation, it needs to offer Security, and that comes through Love. John in his letter today reminds us that God takes care of our Sin and therefore our Guilt, if we admit we have any that is, and our Sin and Guilt are both disposed by God if we believe in God, that is, love God.
But still Guilt and Sin are not the relevant points of approach to the average person today, it’s relieving their Anxiety, that is what they want. Well again it’s a question of trusting God. It’s not easy to do but we make mistakes when we try and force an issue. When we are not prepared to wait upon God’s response things go wrong and people get hurt. And we make bigger mistakes when we act out of revenge, greed and anger. Resentment over what we have experienced, that is, what we have suffered, or put up with, is no good foundation for any action. History itself attests to that Truth.
Instead know that God has a Plan, is in Control and has given us insight into a peaceful life. I believe every one of us would like to have a life free of conflict. It’s possible if we live by God’s Law (love God, love our neighbour). If we do that from where would conflict come ? Well it does come because not everyone follows God’s plan. The solution is to trust things to God, to not take that precipitous action that will start turmoil in a family, at work, or in the Church. Not easy I know but an earnest prayer for guidance is a whole lot better than a ‘Dear Abby’ appeal to whoever your Abby may be. Jesus promises that we will have fruitful lives if we believe in God through Him. The best crops have always grown in good soil and when watered by pure water. Poor soil and little water bring meagre results and a poor harvest. That principle applies to our lives, you will feel better, do better and be better if you are nurtured by the pure Word of God. When you are, Anxiety disappears as a mist, and confidence and good feelings replace it. Only God can bring true peace into a life, into our lives.
When we do things the wrong way, we are anxious on two counts. First about the wrong action and then we are anxious about why we did what was wrong. Following God’s way eliminates the first anxiety and the second never sees the light of day. An anxiety free life is possible if you graft it into the truly Christian way, that is by putting it all in God’s hands. Amen.