The war within

Faith & Inspiration

Every good Christian knows he's supposed to label himself a sinner and go on in vague terms about his wickedness, so consequently it doesn't mean much to say that I am a sinful person. Sometimes it can have the inverse effect---the more someone decries his sinfulness, the more an illusion of sainthood is generated. After all, didn't Saint Paul call himself chief of sinners?

Most of us don't air our sins in public. This is a good thing. We confess them in private, and I wonder if that fosters the illusion that our evil is localized. What I mean is that wickedness, like love, probably ripples and surges far beyond where we see it. Take one of my recent sins, something small in comparison to other sins of which I stand guilty but that is embarrassing all the same: I made an obscene gesture at another driver. I'll spare you the details of what he did to earn such ugliness; suffice to say that this gesture was likely invented with people like him---and me---in mind.

Now, I can tell myself that the consequences of that particular sin are limited to the stranger and myself. But that would be a lie. Every act of wickedness has a deadening effect on the soul. After all, this is how we accomplish the searing of our consciences by playing with fire repeatedly. Giving someone the finger is a relatively small thing---so are all sins aside from the "big" ones, the ones we Christians like to rail on with special vigor until we get caught doing them. But do you know how we work our way up to big sin?

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What's more, given this stranger's driving behavior, he was no more in control of his passions that day than I was. So does he simply ignore my ugly signal and go forward into the lives of others with just as much love as he was carrying before crossing my path? Or does he go forward a little angrier now, a little more cynical about the worth of his fellow man? What effect does this---and a hundred other sins to which he is subjected and in which he participates--- have on his marriage, his relationship with his children, the likelihood that he'll volunteer at a homeless shelter rather than sit on his couch watching television?

We are called to be the body of Christ in the world. I suppose that when we sin we are not simply failing to do that, but instead serving as the body of the evil one. How does the devil accomplish his work in the world? Through my hands, through yours. It's a dreadful thing to consider, that the very rocks cry out because we daily poison the earth with our sin. It's so much easier to imagine our transgressions contained, limited, relatively harmless. But we murder the world with them. We murder our souls.

There is no small sin, and not just because of some cosmic debit and credit column. There is no small sin because it travels far beyond the hand of he who commits it. This is why we battle daily. This is why the Christian should never forget that he is at war. Keep fighting.


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