The Beautiful Thing About Sin

rembrant-prodigal-son-detailI don’t really remember sinning too much when I was a kid. I am sure I did–drawing on the walls with crayons, throwing temper tantrums in the supermarket, refusing to pick up my toys even after being told to like a billion times–I just don’t really remember it. Maybe those sins escape my memory, because they weren’t really that big. Sin is sin, but in the grand scheme of things I’ve done a lot worse that I do remember.

Like the time, in high school I called my mom a “witch.” That was a big one. Pretty ugly too because she’s about the nicest person on the planet. I was a moron.

And I remember the time I got arrested. That was not something my parents encouraged their sons to pursue; lives of crime, but at least half of us have been in jail…well, three quarters of us if you count the time Jon was questioned for a day or two by the Venezuelan secret police. They were pretty sure he and his donkey, Whothey, were CIA. True story.

The point is, I got arrested for being a dummy. The details aren’t important, but trust me, I remember them. But what I really remember is having to tell my parents. They were out of town on the night in question, but would have to accompany their minor son to court. I was pretty sure they’d figure it out that I’d done something wrong at that point, and better to come clean before they started wondering why we were sitting before a judge, was my thinking.

I was pretty scared to tell them, because getting arrested is a big deal. And worst of all I was guilty. I deserved to be punished, by the authorities and by them. I figured–best case scenario–I was grounded for ten years. Worse case, I’d be living in a dirt hole in the prairie behind our house. To be honest, I didn’t know that they would forgive me.

I don’t know exactly what they were thinking as they sat and listened to me confess–probably wondering why God hated them so much–but I do remember what they said. My dad told me he loved me.

He told me a lot of other stuff too–I needed to make some life decisions, I also had to live by their rules as long as I lived with them, etc, etc., but they told me they loved me. And that was a life-changing, beautiful moment for me.

I think their is a beauty to our sin. Not that sin, in and of itself is beautiful, but that sin creates a context for forgiveness and grace which is very beautiful. And the bigger the sin, the more abundant and beautiful the grace.

The story of the prodigal son is beautiful to me for that reason. Here was a kid who wished his father dead (he asked for the inheritance), then squandered it all selfishly. Lots of sin. But man, what a beautiful reunion, when the father graciously welcomes him home.

When Paul writes to the Ephesians in chapter two, he reminds them that they were “dead in transgressions.” Ugly. But God, rich in mercy and grace raised us up in Christ. Why? So that all the world, the coming ages, would see the beautiful, abundant riches of his grace and kindness that he has sown towards us.

I like how Paul puts it:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
I don’t know how he does it, turning something so awful, into something beautiful, but He does. And that’s the beautiful part of our sin, my sin; it draws out, provides a canvas for the awesome beauty of God, his love for us, his incomparable grace and kindness towards those of us dead in our sin.

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