There’s always a Christian somewhere saying something about sin, most of the time in an effort to decide what is and isn’t sin. While I realize that I might be going out on a limb here, I’m really starting to wonder why we’re so obsessed with sin?
While I thought about this I decided to go to the Gospels and read what Jesus said about sin, how he talked about sin, and how he engaged sinners. While searching and reading I found several things interesting.
- Jesus never separated himself from sinners… instead he sought them out.
- In many cases, just the simple act of being in His presence was enough for some people to suddenly feel aware of their sin. Jesus very rarely spent any time pointing their sins out to them, and when he did, it wasn’t accusing, it was in a way that said, “See, I know you. Even the deepest, darkest, parts of you. I already know these things about you and I’m still standing here.”
- The paralytic man whose friends carried him in to see Jesus
First let me quote a couple of passages,
Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
I read this story in Matthew, Mark, and Luke… All pretty much the same. What we know is that this man was a paralytic, and that his friends carried him in to see Jesus because they believed that Jesus could heal the man. We don’t know what the man himself thought, he’d probably seen a lot of healers at that point and was still stuck without legs that would walk. Jesus reads the situation pretty quick and the scripture says that when he saw the faith of the men who brought the paralytic in, he forgave him of his sins. And at that point the Pharisees, just waiting for something to jump on, get all in a huff wondering just who Jesus thinks he is that he can claim to have power to forgive things. To which Jesus (and this is my favorite part) answers, ok which is easier forgiving sin or telling this man to get up and walk?
A couple of big things are going on here… first we have the guys friends. These friends aren’t sitting around with the paralytic and telling him that he is a sinner, and that perhaps his inability to walk is a product of his sinful heart, and that he needs to straighten himself out and then come and beg forgiveness from Jesus so that he might be cleansed and made decent. Nope. They aren’t those friends. Instead, they are physically picking this man up off the ground and carrying him to Jesus because they believe, no, they know that Jesus can and will heal their friend.
Are you seeing the depth here… they weren’t waiting for their friend to clean up, to get their act together, or start behaving himself, they lifted him up and carried him to the feet of the Savior. His sin wasn’t their priority, getting him to The One who could heal him was! This is huge! Do we do this for those around us? Maybe we can’t carry them on a cot to Jesus, but what are we doing? How are we lifting the people around us up? How are we engaged? Is our priority pointing out the sin in the world around us, or getting them to God?
Also look at how Jesus responds. I think it’s safe to assume that Jesus would know the heart and mind of the man, but it wasn’t for the condition of the paralytic’s mind and heart that Jesus forgave his sins, it was for those men who carried them, for their faith the paralytic was not only forgiven of his sins, but healed. To me this is everything… we don’t know if this man was repentant, we don’t know if he renounced whatever kind of sinful life he may or may not have been living, what we know is that his friends carried him to Jesus and that Jesus could and would do the rest. And after Jesus forgave his sins and healed him, he never said, “Now here’s a list of things you may never do again else you might prove that my forgiveness and healing didn’t take.” Instead he told the man to pick up his mat and go home. Simple.
Whatever else might go on in this man’s life, whatever choices he might make, Jesus had left a permanent mark on him. He had been a man confined to his bed and Jesus had made him walk. With every step he took from that moment forward, even if those steps might lead him in the wrong direction, even lead him to sin, he would know the truth. And I believe that Jesus,who is the truth has the power to do what needs to be done in a person, even if it takes a lifetime, once he’s left his irreversible mark on them.
Now maybe I’m reading a lot into the story, maybe not, but these things came to mind after I read all of the accounts…
Why are we spending so much time asking ourselves and each other to define what is and isn’t sin?
Does it matter?
Do we want to be standing with the Pharisees, pointing out sin and questioning what is and isn’t forgivable and whether or not God has the power to actually do it, or do we want to be the people who carry others to Jesus and trust that He can and will change what needs to be changed and mend what needs to be mended?
I don’t know about you, but I want to be the friend.