Sunday, September 22, 2013


Our exchange students left us this week to return to their homes in Europe and to carry on their lives. From my vantage point it was a tearful departure for all the exchange students and their host families. The poignancy of the moment was accentuated by rain and the predawn darkness.

It amazed me how quickly familial bonds form between people who only a couple of weeks before were utter strangers.  It just goes to show how relational we humans are.  But why shouldn't we be? After all, our Creator is relational.

As relational as we all are, it also amazes me how much human society struggles to establish meaningful, healthy, and functional relationships.  Like Darth Vader trying to set his sight on Luke Skywalker's X-wing, we just can't seem to home in on loving relationships.  If we were created to have such relationships, then why do they continue to elude us?

Even though it isn't a very popular subject, that question can be answered with one word: Sin.  People don't like to talk about Sin because, basically, they don't want anyone telling them how to run their lives. And all too often the things we want to do seem to be on someone's list of sins: things such as, sexual preference, abortion, killing, stealing, adultery, dancing, gambling, drinking, drugs, pornography, warfare, music, and on and on.  But none of these things or any others one might add to the list constitute what I mean by Sin; they are really only symptoms of Sin.

A careful examination of the above list--and there are many, many more items one might add to it--shows a common relational theme. The items are either a means to create and maintain relationships, or a means to compensate for the absence of relationships, or a means to cope with destructive relationships.  One way or another, any item on the list can be traced back to a relationship.

And because the behaviors on the list function in some way pertaining to relationships, it does no good to tell the practitioners they are wrong because they, as all of us, are desperate for a relationship--all of us want to be loved; so they really believe they have discovered the means in the life style or behaviors they have adopted, or they have given up hope, altogether, and have defaulted to simply medicating the pain.  It's as if I were starving to death and caught a poisonous frog, and when I was about to eat it you told me I was wrong to eat it.  I would think you either didn't care about my plight, or wanted me to die of starvation, or you just wanted to control me.  In the end, I would eat the frog, and I would die.

Surely some things on the above list of "sins" are definitely comparable to the poison frog, but not all the listed items are.  Yet any one of them are just as fatal if we are attempting to find through them those elusive relationships we have all been created for.  This is what I meant by Sin, earlier.  Sin is the belief we can find, maintain, and build right relationships on our own; putting it simply, Sin is thinking we can be our own god.

Speaking about the community of right relationships we were created to have, the Apostle John tells us,

"Not those out of bloodlines (genealogies), nor out of the desires of the flesh, nor out of the desires of humankind, but those who are born of God." [John 1:13]

The right relationships we all long for will forever elude us until we are again in the right relationship with our Creator--when God is our God and not ourselves.  Until we do that, we shall remain in darkness--both in wherewithal and understanding.

Well, I have good news and bad news.  The bad news is we cannot extricate ourselves from this darkness.  The good news is God can and indeed has made the way out for us.  Let's return to John for the rest of the story....

"In the beginning was the word and the Word was with God and God was the Word. He was in the beginning with God,  All things were created by Him and apart from Him was not one thing created that was created.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of humankind; and the light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.... He was real light that illuminates humankind coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was created by Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own kind, and His own kind did not accept Him.  But as many as receive Him, He gives to them authority to become children of God, to those who are believing in His name, not those out of bloodlines (genealogies), nor out of the desires of the flesh, nor out of the desires of humankind, but those who are born of God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we saw His glory as the only unique begotten one from the Father, full of grace and Truth." [John 1:1-5, 8-14]

In an inexpressible act of re-creation, God entered into human history by taking on flesh as His only begotten unique son, Jesus the Christ, to deal once and for all with the consequences of Sin and the Death that came from it, in order to re-establish the intimate relationship He intended from the beginning to have with all of us, so we would be an eternal community with Him and with each other. And this eternal community--the kingdom of God--the salvation of Humankind--the glory of God--is for all who stand in Christ and Christ alone by believing in Him, which is faith that is inseparably belief, trust, and the action of obedience.  It is in Christ alone we will find those elusive relationships we all long for because only in Christ is the Truth of what they are and the power to live them.

In his must-read book Jesus of Nazareth, From Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration. Image (2007): p. 169, Joseph Ratzinger puts it this way,

"...Jesus is closely connected with the "we" of the new family that He gathers by his proclamation and his action.  It has become evident that this "we" is in principle intended to be universal: It no longer rests on birth, but on communion with Jesus, who is himself God's living Torah."