So…I have a tendency to remain awkward and aloof for years after joining a new group of people.
I promise it’s unintentional.
They ask me questions about myself, and I give quick, incomplete answers. I observe and listen way more than I participate and talk, and I think to some people it seems like I’m trying to be mysterious.
I’m totally not trying…
I just am mysterious.
The real truth is that I’m a chicken. New people are scary, so I keep a barrier of mystery between us until I know I can trust them.
Anyways, I’ve felt a little like a jerk lately because Pastor Pete (Small Church) has clearly been trying to get to know me, and all I’ve been is awkward and aloof. So, in a step towards not being a jerk anymore, I decided to send him the links to a couple of posts I’d written that were about him at least a little bit… this one here and this other one.
Then, I went back to being awkward and aloof. 🙂
A few days later, Pete wrote back with this amazing response, at the end of which he pointed out that a deep awareness of our sin and an even deeper awareness of God’s holiness are signs of spiritual maturity, and he saw both of those things stirring in what I’d written.
It was really cool that he pointed that out because it gave me the direction I’ve been in desperate need of.
In order to know my sin, I tend to beat myself over the head with it. I have an internal dialogue that is something like this:
“You are evil!”
“No. I’m a good person.”
Which may seem extreme, but the problem is that deep down, I don’t believe I’m evil. I think I’m pretty decent.
So after Pete’s email, I sort of settled into a study of sin and how our knowledge of it interacts with our knowledge of God’s holiness.
In my mind it made sense to break sin into two categories: count and non-count (yes, I’m being incredibly grammatical and English teacher right now).
Count sins are the ones you can count. I know, you’d never have guessed it, right?
So… count sins are like when you lied, got drunk, slept with a co-worker, stole, etc… You can tally up those sins, and get some sort of idea of how sinful you are. And for the most part, I get my belief that I’m a decent person from looking at count sins. I tend not to screw up in the count sins as much as the people around me seem to (totally subjective and biased, right?)… and therefore, I think I’m less sinful than they are.
That’s where the non-count sins come in. Non-count sins are the ones we were born into and/or commit so continuously and integratedly that there’s no way to count them. This is stuff like murdering in your heart, not caring for the orphan and the widow (sins of omission rather than co-mission), and all of those human pieces of darkness inside everyone. And since I can’t count this kind of sin, and everyone has it, I tend to feel less guilty about it.
So… after Pete’s email, I decided that I wanted to know my non-count sin more intimately.
Of course Genesis is a good place to look, but the place that gave me the most insight is Psalm 51. It’s the one David wrote after sleeping with Bathsheba…
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is every before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation.
Psalm 51, right now, is my favorite chapter in all of the Bible (that was verses 1 -7 and 14).
The truth is that I know my count transgressions and they are ever before me. I hate them and myself for committing them. But I can’t say that about the non-count ones. I can’t understand that I was brought forth in iniquity. And bloodguiltiness seems like an exaggeration. David, however, seems to know that which I hardly accept as an abstract theological truth. He seems to feel both his count and non-count sins deeply. He seems to hate them equally. He seems to know the he needs God to purify him with hyssop for BOTH types of sin.
At Bible study, we’ve been watching a video series in which non-believers discuss common objections to Christianity with Timothy Keller. This week, one of the things on the video really irked me.
An intelligent, beautiful woman on the video said the following:
“I am at ease with taking the burdens of my own sins, I don’t need somebody else to relieve that for me. I don’t need to think about an afterlife, because I’m scared to live this life. There is a famous quote that says, ‘People who live a full life aren’t scared to die.’ And for me, I’m living a full life and I’m not scared to take the brunt of my sins, I’m not scared to do what I need to do to live this life,” (Pg. 80 of Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God: Conversations on Faith and Life Discussion Guide – emphasis mine)
And I was so struck with the difference between David’s response to sin and this woman’s. Because his sin was ever before him. The woman seems to know about God and about sin, but I wonder if the struggle in my heart is to know sin rather than know about it. I wonder if I wouldn’t know God more deeply had I the ability to fully own my bloodguiltiness.