We are born contenders! Most of us enjoy some form of individual or group competition. We love to cheer on our favorite teams and challenge each other with family games, pickup basketball, and school sports. We test ourselves in attempts to better our individual swim and running times, to improve our golf game, tennis swing or pool shot or to exceed our last weight lift and number of push-ups. We want to be one step ahead, to excel, and to show our worth and in so doing to build our ego! We like being “top dog”. Most of this is done in the spirit of “good fun” and contributes to fellowship, self-discipline, and character building.
However, rivalry takes a dark turn and morphs into something unsavory and evil when it degenerates into selfishness, envy, jealousy, pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, rebelliousness, greed, anger, lust, and cutthroat behavior. Our innate “willfulness” got us into trouble in “the Garden”, is clearly evident in sand box and playground interactions, and continues life long as we vie with siblings, parents, friends, spouses and cultural and religious values! And like Jacob and Job and Jonah, we all struggle with God!
We have an inner drive to carve out “my way”, to get what we think will be pleasurable or will satisfy some need or drive that we have. We understand the inner moral conflict between doing what we know is right and good for us and wanting to do what we know is wrong and not so good for us! We are inherently like the Apostle Paul who said that he did what he did not want to do and didn’t do what he wanted to do…. (Romans 7:15) Those struggles of the conscience (that sense of right and wrong or of good and evil or of ethical and unethical behavior which enables us to act morally and responsibly) are all too familiar.
Often, we dismiss our moral failures as “missteps” or as human frailty and ultimately as insignificant because we compare ourselves with what we know about others. Indeed, we may be moral and upright, generous and kind, and as good as or perceptively better than many others. But that is an empty, meaningless comparison! We are not in a celestial competition with each other!
“Sin” is not a nice word. But it does have substantive and eternal meaning when we compare our nature to God’s and not our neighbors’. Breaking the moral law, going against conscience, knowing what is right and not doing it, and falling short of God’s glory are all facets of sinful behavior and are deeply personal in nature.
Who can say that they “…have a conscience void of offence toward God and men…”? (Acts 24:16 (ASV) That high bar proves we need deliverance from ourselves! We fail. We miss the mark, and do not rise to the level of perfect glory that God gave humanity. (Romans 3:23) We cannot cure ourselves. We are all on equal and tenuous ground because our rebellious, broken natures cannot be allowed to ruin the Kingdom of God. That is why we all need redemption. That is why God in great love and mercy took extreme action. That is the reason for Jesus, who took our condemnation and paid the death penalty so that through faith we are cleansed. Hebrews 9:14 (ASV)”
In a great paradox, a terrible and wrongful crucifixion became a cosmic victory! It was finished! Mankind was no longer under condemnation. The Kingdom was open to those who accepted the invitation to believe. And the clarion declaration of victory came three days later at an empty tomb…..
“…Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57 )
The competition is over! The Victor has been declared! And the joyful Easter cry resounds! “He is Risen.”
“He is risen indeed!”
Have a joyous Easter!