Freedom in Christ is Freedom from Sin

I think many people primarily view their sin as something that points to their failings as a human-being, and as something shameful. Yet instead of this, rather seeing our sin as the principle thing which keeps us imprisoned, trapped and enslaved, is a much more useful way to understand our sin; and it is more important and beneficial to see the truth of our sin in this way. Sin is our enemy, and it is also the glue that our enemy uses to keep us stuck in our suffering.

Because of the fact that we mainly view sin as shameful and we feel its negative reflection upon us, we hide from it, we deny it, and we run away from it; and because we do this, we never get free of it. It continues to cause us and others pain and suffering. Our sin becomes the walls and bars of our self-made prison because we are merely ashamed of it, but we don’t renounce it.

We are in a spiritual battle, and as with everything, we choose sides moment by moment. If we fear our accusers, and if we fear the truth of the accusations which point to our sins, then we will never become free. Satan, the great accuser, and the source of the energy behind our human accusers, intends to keep us trapped, hiding forever in our shame and guilt. But if we put our trust in Christ, the source of all good human freedom, then we can face our accusers boldly, we can face ourselves too, as we admit our sin; if we trust in the forgiveness found only through Jesus Christ—who is not an accuser—then we can find the courage to renounce our sin, and become free from its effects on our future life.

It is important to remember the characteristics and qualities of the principle actors. On one hand we have the devil: the deceiver, the accuser, the father of lies, who seeks our enslavement and ultimately our destruction. On the other hand we have Jesus Christ: the son of God, the truth, the comforter, the way of life, who seeks our liberation and ultimately our complete fulfillment as human beings made in His image and likeness. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle here, and we are all susceptible to influences on both sides.

We need not resort to accusations, lies or fear; and when we are met by these from others we need not become ashamed or enslaved—provided we align with the enemy of fear and lies, Jesus Christ. If we lay our sin down and renounce it before Him, in spirit and in truth, we can stand fearlessly, boldly and even joyfully in the face of our accusers and in the face of any deception designed to ensnare us. Truth, especially in regards to our sin, will set us free; Christ, the Truth, will set us free! Have faith, have hope, repent!  


First Light

If you’re tired of the battles,

when you’re ready to surrender,

Come, join me for a drink of water—

And let us go to the house of the Lord,

in peace we’ll go together.

Come, let us dance like fools,

stumbling no longer,

hand-in-hand, and free—

the time is ripe for laughter,

please, come and dance with Me.

Beneath the starry night,

upon a moonlit field,

the angels sing their song—

by myriad candles’ warming light,

we’ll see the birthing of the Dawn.

Foregoing all the dismal thoughts,

that tag along and weigh us down,

when only joyfully we’ve brought—

our thankful spirits bowing down,

We’ll leave that life, all fraught with fought,

Christ’s life and light, shall fill us now. 


The Epic of John Gilgesh (Chapter 1; part 4):

And yet John wasn’t gone, he wasn’t lost, he was very much within her reach, just a short walk down the hall, in the maternity ward’s intensive care nursery, just off the nurse’s station.  She only had to walk down there, and take him. He was hers after all. In the most intimate way, he was hers; not as a possession, but as a part of her. Nobody could get in the way of that intimacy, of that primal and essential value, which is far greater and more urgent than any hospital administrative procedure or restriction. Mary hastened out of bed and left her room, clothed in only her sleeping gown, and barefoot. She made her way down the dark hallway towards the light from the nurse’s station, which reflected off the waxed floor ahead of her, leading the way. The floor was cold, and her bare feet slapped lightly against the linoleum as she walked quickly, practically running, to rescue her boy. There was one nurse sitting at the desk, and she was busy doing a crossword puzzle, when Mary asked to see her baby. The nurse explained that it was after visiting hours, and she was the only one on duty tonight, so even if she wanted to, she couldn’t leave her station unattended. Mary pushed her to reconsider, but the nurse held her ground, saying that the NICU nursery wasn’t simply a place one could go in and out of without precautions; special gowns had to be donned, as well as gloves and masks, and all of these procedures took time, which she just didn’t have right then. She was very busy. Mary glanced down at the nurse’s desk, prompting the nurse to slide her right hand over the crossword, as she looked up into Mary’s eyes defiantly. They locked eyes momentarily, and Mary expended great effort to hold her tongue; refraining from uttering the sarcastic observation that the nurse was obviously busy with her games. Still, the look in Mary’s eyes conveyed pretty much the same thing that her sarcastic comment would have, and the nurse got the message. Nurse Pleasant—that was her last name, though not always her attitude—grew embarrassed. She wasn’t a bad person, nor even a lazy one, but just extremely overworked, and she coveted her nights at the maternity ward—long hours typically with very little to do, which provided a respite from the countless tasks she performed around the hospital during the day. As a senior nurse, her responsibilities were legion, and she was exhausted. Covering the night shift, while other nurses were sick, was actually a chance to catch up on her puzzles, and even get some sleep, which she couldn’t even do at home—where her husband always had some complaint or another, which needed her immediate attention. For Nurse Pleasant, even being at work was a vacation, compared with being at home.

Mary appealed to Nurse Pleasant’s own maternal identity and memories. Surely, she must remember what it was like to be a new mother, how she had needed to see her newborn child and to hold them? Couldn’t she imagine the agony of being denied fulfillment of this need? Nurse Pleasant did remember those feelings. She loved being a mother, and she loved holding babies. She looked up into Mary’s desperate eyes, which had filled with tears, and she relented.

“Okay, I’ll bring him to the window, so you can see him. No, I can’t let you in to hold him. We have very strict restrictions on that. The priority is to keep the nursery sterile and free of anything that could harm the babies. I’m sure you understand. That’s the best I can do. If you want to go over there, to the viewing window. I’ll go get suited up and bring him over for you.”

Mary nodded, and took a step towards the window, but couldn’t help noticing Nurse Pleasant reach into the top drawer of her desk and pull out a key on a long lanyard. Mary looked away, pretending not to notice, but out of the corner of her eye she kept the nurse under close observation, as she walked through the windowed door, where she donned a gown, pulled on a fresh pair of rubber gloves, and placed a mask over her face, and a surgical cap over her head, before using the key from the desk in the door which led into the intensive care nursery. Mary turned away and walked to the viewing window, considering what she had just seen. “Anton would be furious with me if I snuck into the nursery,” she thought. “No, that would be wrong. He’d say I trespassed; he’d be disappointed. But is it really trespassing if I’m just getting what is mine?” She mulled these things over, until she saw Nurse Pleasant pull John from his incubator and bring him over to the window. Excitedly, she pressed her face up against the glass, and devoured her baby with her eyes. As you can imagine, everything about him appeared beautiful to her: beautiful little feet and toes, beautiful hands and fingers, pretty soft pink skin, fine blondish brown hair covering his perfect little head. She pressed against the floor with her bare feet and stood on her toes to get a better look at his face. Again, perfectly beautiful; though the look in his eyes disturbed her, he looked uncomfortable. And why was he arching his back, and his limbs were all quite stiff, as if he were trying to get away from the nurse and didn’t like the way she was holding him. “Doesn’t she know how to hold a baby?” Mary thought incredulously. “What’s the matter with her, why doesn’t she hold him so that he is comfortable?” This bothered Mary, and she gave Nurse Pleasant an exasperated look, which the nurse ignored, while she continued to look down at the baby’s face, smiling and cooing soothingly. This also annoyed Mary, though it was really jealousy that made her feel this way. It was she that should be holding John, not a nurse. Nurse Pleasant looked up at Mary, smiled and returned the baby to his incubator.  

Several minutes later, the nurse came out of the nursery and sat down again at her desk, returning the key to its place in the top drawer. Mary thanked Nurse Pleasant, who went back to working on her crossword puzzle, and Mary returned to her room. But she didn’t sleep. Instead, she formulated a plan. Her thoughts briefly flitted to her husband, he wouldn’t approve, she was fairly certain of that. He’d forgive her.

(to be continued)


The Good, The Bad, & Our Motives

It is an interesting and instructive question to ask oneself: am I doing or saying the right thing but for the wrong reason; or am I doing or saying the wrong thing but for the right reason; or am I doing or saying the right thing for the right reason? (We’ll ignore the fourth option: doing or saying the wrong thing for the wrong reason, because that’s just wrong.)

With respect to the prevailing measures our leaders, and those who trust them have taken, in attempts to curtail this pandemic, we have seen all of these conditions at play. We’ve seen Dr. Fauci, and others in positions of authority, employ the ‘noble lie’ telling us untruths because they are for our own good; this is a version of the ‘ends justify the means’ approach to ethics, which is simply a variation on saying the wrong thing (a lie) for the right reason (our own good). But I think if you are willing to lie, even with good intentions, you are already on a slippery slope; and the end of that downhill slide is inevitably a bad outcome, with nothing good to justify it.

Perhaps even worse than that though, is doing or saying the right thing but for the wrong reason. This one can be very confusing to recognize, and can confound everyone who experiences it. We hear the good words spoken, or see the good deed done, but we sense the bad motives underlying it, but we can’t quite pinpoint what exactly is wrong with it. And because the wrongness of it is cloaked inside a garment of supposed good, it often is effective, goes unchecked, and the perpetrator will get away with it. This technique is often used to target Christians such as myself; perhaps you have also been the recipient of this kind of subterfuge?

For instance, I have been told that I should wear the mask, or get the vaccine, because as a Christian that would be ‘following the golden rule’ to love ones neighbor as oneself. The particularly interesting thing about this is that it is often leveled by folks who aren’t Christians themselves; so that raises a red flag at the outset. Why would a non-Christian suddenly have interest in the teachings of Christ, who they don’t believe in? Is their motive sacrificial love (charity)? And the use of their quotation, does it honestly fit contextually, and in the spirit, with the entirety of Christ’s teachings found in the rest of scripture? My guess is it typically doesn’t; but it is rather motivated by their fears, and their desire to persuade you to act according to their wishes. They use the right thing (scriptural references) for the wrong reason (manipulation/coercion/shaming rather than genuine love). The letter of the law is there (a good), but the spirit behind it is deceptive and sneaky.

It is true that the Christian tradition, including scripture, is a testament of love for God and love for neighbor, but the key and primary aspect of this is ‘love’. The underlying motivation for all action and speech is and should be genuine charity. If you can honestly attest before your conscience and God that your motive is love for others, than I suspect that you are doing or saying the right thing for the right reason. The unfortunate thing for us today is that we have seared our consciences to such a degree through bad thoughts and bad behavior that we can’t even discern our true motives, and we’ve grown so accustomed to telling and hearing lies that we can’t even discern the truth within our own hearts. This needs to be step one; make your own heart good, then all that flows out from it will be good; and the means you employ in doing or saying anything towards another person may have a good ending.


The Epic of John Gilgesh (Chapter 1; part 3):

Several minutes later Anton returned to the room and reported, as expected, that it wouldn’t be possible to see their son tonight; that the doctor was gone for the evening and they’d have to ask him tomorrow. Anton had arrived to Mary’s room already feeling somewhat dejected, but as he explained the circumstances to her, and saw his wife’s darkening gaze, he added quickly that the nurses didn’t have the authority to let them in to see their baby, and besides, even if they could, visiting hours were ending in a few minutes.

“Visiting hours?!” Mary exclaimed sardonically. “Am I just a visitor here?!”

“Apparently they’re short-staffed as well. Several nurses caught the flu and are out. So that makes it more difficult…”

“These things are not important, Anton.” Mary pleaded. “Fine, they’re plausible reasons, but not justifications. None rise to the level of…I mean really?! Visiting hours, an absent doctor…nurses with the flu? These are the things standing between a mother and her newborn baby? I haven’t even held him yet! Three days he’s already been in this world, and I haven’t even smelled him, I don’t even know what he smells like…what he feels like! No, Anton, this is not right. I’m telling you it isn’t right! I am getting into that room, and I am going to hold John; and I am going to give him what he needs. Tonight!”

Anton sat down on the edge of the bed and looked into his wife’s eyes; and then he embraced her, pulling her agitated body close to him. She tensed at first, resisting the intimacy and the compassion of his gesture, which made her feel weak at a time when she believed she needed to feel strong. But without warning she burst into tears, and she wept bitterly into his chest. And she cried for a very long time—letting herself go—which surprised her; and she even wailed for a few moments, which frightened her. All the while Anton held her firmly against him, and with one hand he caressed the back of her head, letting his fingers run gently through her long, black hair—which she had always found very soothing.

“I just want to hold him, it isn’t too much to ask…is it?”

“Of course not, and you will. Very soon. Let’s just be patient a little longer. Everything will be fine. You just rest now, and I’ll head on home and get ready for my classes tomorrow. We’ll both get some sleep, and you can talk with the doctor in the morning and I’m sure they will let you see John. I’ll be back tomorrow evening and who knows, you’ll most likely be able to tell me finally, how our little boy smells. And hopefully not like a dirty diaper.”

Anton and Mary shared a brief chuckle, and she leaned back against her pillow, as he stood up. “It’s just a few more hours, honey. Get some sleep. Everything will be fine in the morning.” He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead and gathered up his things before saying goodnight and leaving the room. He was relieved to see her close her eyes as he shut the door. “She must be very tired,” he thought to himself. “It was a very difficult birth; sleep is the best thing for her now. She’ll get good rest and feel refreshed in the morning.” He continued to assuage his concerns about his wife in this way, and with many similar thoughts, as he walked down the hallway, descended the stairs to the lobby and exited the hospital, making his way to the car. In the back of his mind however, far back and mostly hidden from view, he had other thoughts, doubtful thoughts, based on previous experiences which had demonstrated his wife’s stubbornness and her one-pointed determination. If he allowed himself to consider these memories as well, he would have admitted there was little chance that she would remain in bed for the entire night, and leave the nurses at the end of the hallway alone, and leave John unsought for; but he was adept at suppressing these thoughts, so he happily started his car and began the drive home, comfortably though erroneously convinced that Mary was safely ensconced in her bed for the night.

Mary couldn’t sleep; no, not at all. Though she did try, and her body wanted to; but in her soul, rest was an impossibility. But how can we say it was her soul that was troubled? Was it not simply her mind and her emotions in turmoil? And didn’t we say at the outset of our story that words mattered, and precision in our choice of words would be of the utmost importance in conveying the truth of it all, and for describing things accurately? Yes, the disquiet that she felt inside, since John had been taken from within her womb, was certainly difficult to put into words, but Mary wrestled to find the proper means of conveying this experience—for her own personal understanding, and as a matter of scientific inquiry. The ache, the emptiness, the confused disorientation that currently overwhelmed her was only an aspect of a more profound, wider and more expansive unrest. It included every aspect of her being, including her thoughts and her emotions, and it permeated her body, yet it would be an error to resort simply to a biologically reductionist argument to explain it; simply because neurons are involved, and hormones as well—as are many other physiological processes which could be observed and measured—observing all of these is simply to say that her body was involved, but not that her body was the source. Before John, she was one person; after John, she was somebody new. As his life grew within her, she died and was born again; and this process occurred over and again, dying again, and again, to who she had been. John was her butterfly, and she was his chrysalis; yet, she was a butterfly too, and he was her catalyst. Mary smiled as she landed on this image in her mind, and she came to the conclusion that the greatest realities are best captured poetically. It is the poet and the prophet who best reveal the workings of the soul, and who translate the mind of God to humanity most truthfully. With John, she discovered that the building blocks of life are charity, and the foundation that undergirds all of creation, is charity. Charity being that love that is union between entities, love between persons, devotion, self-sacrifice, endless giving and intimate relationship. Charity, Mary decided, is the universal language which communicates perfect understanding, and holds everything together; and charity is the engine that powers the cosmos, and keeps it going. Without John, she was now like an amputee, the one who experiences that strange sensation where they can still feel the toes that are no longer there, and the itch of the leg that has been taken away. She had been augmented, and now she was diminished. She once would have defined herself by her attributes, but now she would define herself by what was missing—apophatically, she was the mother without her son.

(to be continued)