Breathing Life Into Broken Relationships: The Reality of Sin and the Solution
Is there any parent who doubts the reality of sin? I don’t, especially after 21 years of parenting.I still remember when my oldest son lied to me for the first time. I’d watched him playing with little bits of concrete at the edge of the storm drain in our basement and decided to investigate. The hole was open and lined with fresh splash marks so I squatted down beside him and questioned him gently. “Thaddaeus, did you drop some rocks in the hole?” He looked at me quietly, reading my face, and answered, “No.”
Now, for those us who are parents of small children, that is not an incredibly unique experience. Yet I was surprised nonetheless because my son was only two and a half years old.
Why would he lie? Where did he learn to lie? He was still so young and sweet and innocent. After some quiet probing, and assurances that I would not be angry, he finally admitted to the misdeed. I hugged him, told him to please not throw any more rocks down that hole, and scooted him off to play elsewhere, making a mental note to do a better job of keeping the drain covered.
Still, even now, I marvel at the deliberateness of the act – the lie that is. Not because it was such a horrible thing to do, but rather because it came so naturally to one so young. My wife and I have committed ourselves to doing that which pleases God, and strive on a daily basis to provide a home where godly, biblical principles are taught and followed. Yet, in spite of our best efforts and constant prayers, doing what is right and good does not come naturally to any of our eight children nor to anyone else’s that we have observed. Why?
Where Does Sin Come From?
The Bible provides a sobering explanation. King David in the Old Testament, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) was led by God’s Spirit to write, “Behold, I was shapen in inquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). This biblical doctrine that sin is part of our nature from birth and affects every single person is taught in the New Testament as well. Romans 3:10-12 tells it like it is, “There is none righteous, no, not one … There is none that seeketh after God … There is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
Sin, then, is like a spiritual cancer all of us are born with, and the symptoms manifest themselves early on in even the sweetest of children. An otherwise angelic two-year-old is transformed into a tantrum-throwing monster. A compliant, submissive preschooler becomes a rebel with a cause at the mere mention of bedtime. Siblings, who are often loving and kind, turn on each other and convert the back seat of the car into a war zone on the way to the store. Yet none of us taught our children to behave this way; quite the contrary. So, how do we explain these radical deviations of character that go against everything we know is right and good? Again God provides the answer in His Word which says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”(Romans 5:12). That verse explains my own experience, for I have never met a person who has managed to escape being tainted by sin. Could it be that our very natures, from the time we are born, have a natural tendency away from good? True, few of us are as bad as we could be, but can any of us deny that we have an inherent rebellion against what is good, just and right, a propensity toward selfishness and evil that we must constantly struggle to keep in check? Could it be the Scriptures are true when they say we are sinners by birth, choice, practice and generational influence?
Indeed, like a cancer, sin grows in both size and scope if left unchecked. The cruelties of youth pale when compared to the atrocities that adults perpetrate on one another. The gossip and backbiting that ruin relationships and reputations; the lies and manipulations we use to maneuver to a position of greater power; the deception and egotism we use to maintain a certain image; the pride and greed and lust that lead to theft, immorality and murderall these plague us as people, tainting our lives, our families and our society. In spite of our best efforts to maintain at least some relative goodness, thinking, “I’m not as bad as he is,” when we are honest with ourselves we recognize how far and how often we fall short of God’s perfection and holiness. No wonder the Apostle Paul was inspired to write, “For all have sinned [past tense] and fall short of the glory of God [present tense]” Romans 3:23. There is not a day that goes by when we do not “fall short” of God’s glory and for that falling short we deserve His just judgment. So where do we go for healing and restoration?
The Divine Solution
To the extent that we recognize how our own moral imperfection breaks our relationship with a perfect and holy God, will be the extent to which we find ourselves crying out for a solution.
The Scriptures describe the seriousness of our condition: we are spiritually dead. “Dead in trespasses and sins” says Ephesians 2:1,5; “dead in your sins” repeats Colossians 2:13. Obviously, our first need is to be brought back to life spiritually, but what can a dead man do to save himself? Many do try to bring healing to their own souls, but what we really need is divine help from a source outside ourselves. We need a radical change in who we are from the inside out. In Christ, we can experience just such a transformation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” What we could not do for ourselves, Jesus Christ did for us. The Bible says, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly… While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6, 8). The divine solution for sin was Christ’s death on our behalf, a gift God offers to us as dead people so we can experience true spiritual life.
One look at the evil that abounds in our world, however, makes it clear that this spiritual life does not come automatically. God respects our free agency and gives each person a choice: accept or reject the gift of life He offers. But we must make no mistake, what God offers is a gift and it cannot be bought or earned. Nothing we do obligates God, for we could never earn the cure for an otherwise incurable spiritual cancer. True, some scoff at the gift, saying it cannot be that easy, but in doing so they miss the point that accepting the gift in simple faith is hard. It means admitting our total dependence on God’s help. It is not easy to come to Jesus with open, empty hands, and by faith receive the forgiveness, renewal and eternal life He offers, yet God sets only this choice before us.
The moment we repent of our sin and rebellion, and in faith accept the gift, we have “passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). Our position before God changes and we are no longer alienated from our Heavenly Father. Instead, we have become His adopted children. The Gospel of John tells us that “as many as received him, to them gave he power (right or privilege) to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). The Apostle Paul echoes this thought when he writes that Jesus came “to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:5).So while all of us are born as creatures made by God and are image bearers of our Creator, none of us are children of God until God adopts us into His family, something that cannot happen until we repent of our sin (especially the sin of attempting to merit the atonement) and accept by faith alone the gift of forgiveness and eternal life paid for by Jesus Christ.
Transformed Relationships Today
The spiritual solution impacts our human relationships as well. While we are dead in our sins, it is nearly impossible to achieve lasting change or find relief from the stress and strife that is so common today. Sin disrupts the harmony of our daily lives, fracturing our most important relationships. However, once Christ breaks the stranglehold of sin, we are free to grow in grace and truth. Yes, we will continue to struggle and succumb at times to temptation, but, as we begin to see patterns that are selfish and destructive, we can bring our sin to God for forgiveness and experience the healing and restoration of damaged relationships.
I recently experienced this exciting reality in my own marriage. It had become apparent that something was wrong between my wife and me. The tension was tangible and all my attempts at small talk met with an even smaller response. I was immediately defensive, thinking surely it wasn’t my fault, I hadn’t done anything wrongor had I? During a morning time of prayer, I replayed the events from the previous evening, seeking for insight, something that would lead to a solution and a healing of the hurt. Then, God’s Holy Spirit turned on the light, and suddenly, with devastating clarity I saw the cause was my selfishness and pride. As I came to grips with my own personal sinfulness, I confessed it in prayer to God, and at the first opportunity, to my wife. Restoration was quick and sweet on both fronts.
As I reflected on this incident I wondered, “what if I had not seen my own sin, or worse yet, what if I’d seen it and chosen to ignore it?” The results would have been more tension and heartache and a relationship crippled by the trespass. The good news is that once we accept the gift of eternal, spiritual life provided through Jesus and are made new creatures by the grace of God, then every time we recognize sin in our life we have the opportunity to experience God’s forgiveness and grace. He expects us neither to ignore our spiritual failings nor to heal them ourselves, but to come to Him for cleansing and spiritual healing. God’s grace is a gift we can receive time and time again, for “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).