By Paula Marolewski
hell is passe. Fire and brimstone sermons are considered out of
fashion. The goal is to find the lost, comfort the broken-hearted,
and rescue the perishing. Therefore, God is the faithful Hound
of heaven, the gentle Shepherd, and the Lover of our souls.
Sin? Well, yes. But please don’t focus on it too much; it
really turns people off. They might get offended, and if they feel
guilty they won’t come back. Confession? Of course confession
is an important part of prayer. No, come to think of it, we don’t
have a time of confession in our worship service. On my own? That’s
none of your business, thank you.
But sin is where salvation begins. We only need a Savior because
we are sinners. The lost need to be found because they are wandering
in the fear and deception of sin. The broken-hearted are begging
for comfort because they have been victimized by the ravages of
sin. The perishing are desperate for rescue because they are dying
from the fatal disease of sin.
That is why Ignatius of Loyola (ca. 1500) taught that the first
step in a life of spiritual discipline was to come face to face
with sin. He instructs that we are to “beg for shame and
confusion about myself, as I see how many have been damned because
of one mortal sin, and how many times, for how many sins, I have
deserved to be damned forever” (Ignatius of Loyola: Spiritual
Exercises, Joseph Tetlow, Crossroad, New York, 1992, page 74).
Are you willing to pray in such fashion? Am I? Ignatius goes on
to guide the learner how to meditate: to consider the sin of the
angels who fell with Satan, to ponder the sin of Adam and Eve,
to focus on how many others have perished eternally for their sins,
and finally, to look closely at their own soul, and to see it clearly
for what it is. “I remember the seriousness and malice of
sin against our Creator and Lord. I apply my understanding, reasoning
how by sinning and going against the infinite Goodness, the person
truly merited being damned forever” (Tetlow, 75).
But why? Why is this important? Why dwell on the blackness and
evil within ourselves and within the world? Is it not better, more
holy, more effective, to focus on the light of God’s love?
The answer is found in the very next words Ignatius penned following
the above exhortations: “Imagine Christ right before you,
hanging on the cross . . . How is it that he has come from being
Creator to making himself human? How is it that he came from eternal
life to death in time, and came so as to die for my sins? Turning
it about, I ask of myself: What have I done for Christ? What am
I doing for Christ? What ought I do for Christ?” (Tetlow,
In order to truly understand the light, we have to understand
the depths of the darkness. In order to treasure the healing, we
must understand fully the disease from which we were dying. In
order to understand the Love, we have to understand the horror
of why and what he suffered on our behalf.
Generation upon generation of believers have shown the value of
coming to grips with sin. Not only at the point of their conversion,
but at various times and seasons along their walk with the Lord.
Those who gloss over or turn a blind eye to sin, preferring rosier
pictures of haloes and heavenly cities, speaking only of light
and love, find an emptiness in their lives and a shallowness in
their gospel. Those who confront evil for what it is, wrestling
with the warning of eternal damnation, recognizing the filth and
stench it has left in their own lives: these are the true warriors
of light. They go forth understanding the brutality of the Cross,
and the crowning victory of the Resurrection. They know intimately
the pit they have been pulled out of; they can vividly describe
the tomb from which they have been raised. They go forth to preach
a glorious message to a dying world: that they know the crushing,
asphyxiating power of sin—and the Triumphant Savior.
© 2000 Paula Marolewski
Article Source: http://www.sinkyourroots.com
About the Author:
Paula J. Marolewski provides challenging and interactive adult Bible
studies for individuals, Bible studies, small groups, and adult Sunday School
classes at Sink Your Roots. Studies
include such topics as Debunking
the Myths about Knowing God's Will. The site also offers free weekly Seedlings - “Little
thoughts that grow big results.”