by Robert Jacobs
I ran across an interesting quote the other day while I was mindlessly perusing Facebook. Plastered in one of those picture-like call-out boxes so that people will stop their zombie-like scrolling, the quote read, “Don’t worry about your contradictions—Persephone is both floral maiden and queen of death. You, too, can be both.”
Floral maiden and queen of death. While I can appreciate the need to be both sensitive and tough in various situations, the statement reveals something much more important about our culture, namely the desire to ignore our internal contradictions.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I get that we will continue to experience what I call the Pauline conflict (i.e. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” Romans 7:15). However, Paul subordinates this phenomenon to the truth of transformation, the reality that we are created and called to be more than simply stuck in our sin (Romans 8:12).
The problem for us, though, is that we are fine with still wallowing in our sin—being the “queen of death” as it were—while claiming to follow Christ. Despite Peter’s assertion that, “just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do,” we regularly try to synthesize our sin and faith (1 Peter 1:15).
This begs the question. How are those who claim to follow Christ fine with such a glaring contradiction? Or, to put it another way, why do Christians feel like they can have Jesus AND their sin despite the fact that John tells us, “If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth” (1 John 1:6)?
Part of the problem, in my opinion, comes from a misinterpretation of the gospel that implies that after the point of salvation our actions no longer matter. In fact, there are even popular Christian songs with this exact phraseology. While I don’t think that these artists intended any harm, when their lyrics are interpreted within the context of our culture they can reinforce the idea that our salvation offers us a license to sin.
This problem, despite what some people think, is not one confined to our post-modern society. According to Jude, something very similar happened in the first century church. He writes that particular individuals had begun to “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 1:4). In other words, these people interpreted and taught that the sacrifice of Christ is a kind of “get out of jail free” card, something that is received and then has no impact on the believer’s life.
The reality of the gospel, however, could not be more different. Jesus bids us to come and be transformed, to be restored to what we were intended to be before sin. Rather than being left a “hot mess,” Jesus calls us up to our place as children of God. In this transformation, we are born from death to life, from bondage in sin to freedom in holiness.
Truly believe that you can be transformed, that Jesus has something more for you than your sin. In doing so, you will find abundant life.