It is 7.30am just time to post the next of my recent radio talks before early morning communion. The weather has become very hot here this week which means feeling very hot in the robes we wear for services!
Have a good first day of the week!
So what went wrong? If God made us to know him, love him and serve him in this world and to be happy with him for ever in the next. How is it that not only do we not seem to know him, but have made rather a mess of the rest of the creation as well. The Bible describes what went wrong using the story of Adam and Eve. For most Christians this is a parable although some think it is meant to be taken literally. All are agreed, however, that it is what it teaches about our relationship with God and our present condition in the world that matters most. When we read Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, we don’t argue about whether there actually was a Good Samaritan. For all I know Jesus might have known a Samaritan who behaved in this way, the point of him telling the story, however, is to teach us to show compassion even towards our enemies.
What the story of Adam and Eve is meant to teach us is that the knowledge of God was open to us and we chose instead to reject God and go our own way. We, like rebellious children, preferred to do things our way and not to have anything to do with the God who made us in the first place. It is this that the Bible calls sin. Sin has been defined by taking away the s and the n. What you are left with is the letter in the middle: this is what sin is, I. I: thinking that what matters most is me, that I am at the centre of the world, and that it is my interests, my desires and my concerns that matter most and before anyone else’s.
This sin, this self-centredness and selfishness, leads to what the Bible describes as sins: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth – the traditional seven deadly sins. It also leads to environmental pollution, genetic manipulation, accumulating excessive wealth, inflicting poverty, drug trafficking and consumption, morally debatable experiments, violation of fundamental rights of human nature – the modern Vatican list, which has recently received some publicity in the Press.
We may smile condescendingly when religious people talk of sin, whether in traditional or modern ways, but when children suffer from allergic reactions to chemicals discharged into the atmosphere, when young girls are forced into prostitution to satisfy a rich man’s lust, people are beaten up and robbed because of someone else’s greed, - and the list could go on - it just doesn’t seem so funny any more.
Of course, we all disapprove of this sort of behaviour in principle - and principally in others, but the Bible’s point is that we are all guilty to a greater or lesser degree: we all manifest the symptoms of the same disease. Some may be at a more advanced stage than others, but all of us have it, and it is a deadly disease that leads to death. Not simply physical death, which would be bad enough, but spiritual death. You and I, who were created for life, are subject to death, and it is because both of the sin, which is a common factor of human existence, and of the sins that we knowingly and willingly commit each day.
It’s not a happy story! And it’s not one that even Christians like to talk about nowadays. While bad news may sell newspapers and play well on television, it doesn’t fill churches. But make no mistake the bad news we see on television, relentlessly, day by day, is a consequence of the same disease that infects us all.
The Times invited several famous authors to write essays on the theme, ‘What's Wrong with the World?’. One writer, G K Chesterton, made his contribution in the form of a letter:
G. K. Chesterton
Human beings, created by God in the image of God to know God and to be happy with him for ever, chose - and choose - instead to do their own thing and to ignore God. As a consequence, we have become infected with a deadly virus, which destroys ourselves, those around us, and the planet we inhabit. We desperately need to find a cure before it is too late both for us and for our world.
The Bible tells us that there is a cure. In the language that the New Testament was written, the verb ‘to save’ from which we get the word ‘salvation’, means ‘to heal’. The good news of Christianity is that there is a cure, there is salvation. But we will only be able to be cured when we are prepared to admit we are ill, and that, sadly, many of us are not prepared to do.
Smoking kills! We all know that, but many of us prefer to go on smoking. Sin kills too, but, sadly, many of us also choose to go on sinning rather than seeking help. But for those who are willing to give it a try there is help. There is the offer of a cure. There is hope.
There is salvation!