To sin is to disregard God, ignore his teachings, deny his blessings. Sin is “God-less” living, centering life on the center letter of the word sIn. The sinner’s life is me-focused, not God-focused. Wasn’t this the choice of Adam and Eve?
Prior to their sin they indwelled a fearless world. One with creation, one with God, one with each other. Eden was a “one-derful” world with one command: don’t touch the tree of knowledge. Adam and Eve were given a choice, and each day they chose to trust God. But then came the serpent, sowing seeds of doubt and offering a sweeter deal. “Has God indeed said . . . ,” he questioned (Gen. 3:1). “You will be like God,” he offered (Gen. 3:5).
Just like that, Eve was afraid. Some say she was pride filled, defiant, disobedient . . . but wasn’t she first afraid? Afraid that God was holding out, that she was missing out? Afraid Eden wasn’t enough? Afraid God wasn’t enough? Afraid God couldn’t deliver?
Suppose she and Adam had defied these fears. Refused to give soil to the serpent’s seeds of doubt. “You’re wrong, you reptile. Our Maker has provided for each and every need. We have no reason to doubt him. Go back to the hole from which you came.” But they spoke no such words. They mishandled fear, and fear did them in.
Eve quit trusting God and took matters—and the fruit—into her own hands. “Just in case God can’t do it, I will.” Adam followed suit.
Adam and Eve did what fear-filled people do. They ran for their lives. “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid’ ” (Gen. 3:8–10).
Fear, mismanaged, leads to sin. Sin leads to hiding. Since we’ve all sinned, we all hide, not in bushes, but in eighty-hour workweeks, temper tantrums, and religious busyness. We avoid contact with God.
We are convinced that God must hate our evil tendencies. We sure do. We don’t like the things we do and say. We despise our lustful thoughts, harsh judgments, and selfish deeds. If our sin nauseates us, how much more must it revolt a holy God! We draw a practical conclu-sion: God is irreparably ticked off at us. So what are we to do except duck into the bushes at the sound of his voice?
The prophet Isaiah says that sin has left us as lost and confused as stray sheep. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). If the prophet had known my dog, he might have written, “All we like Molly have gone astray . . . ”
For such a sweet dog, she has a stubborn, defiant streak. Once her nose gets wind of a neighbor’s grilling steak or uncovered trash, no amount of commands can control her. You don’t want to know how many times this minister has chased his dog down the street, tossing un-minister-like warnings at his pet. She “sins,” living as if her master doesn’t exist. She is known to wander.
Last week we thought she’d wandered away for good. We posted her picture on bulletin boards, drove through the neighborhood, calling her name. Finally, after a day of futility, I went to the animal shelter. I described Molly to the animal shelter director. She wished me luck and pointed toward a barrack-shaped building whose door bore the sign Stray Dogs.
Warning to softhearted dog lovers: don’t go there! I’ve not seen such sadness since they shut down the drive-in movie theater in my hometown. Cage after cage of longing, frightened eyes. Big, round ones. Narrow, dark ones. Some peered from beneath the thick eyebrows of a cocker spaniel. Others from the bald-as-a-rock head of a Chihuahua. Different breeds but same plight. Lost as blind geese with no clue how to get home.
Two terriers, according to a note on the gate, were found on a remote highway. Someone found an aging poodle in an alley. I thought I’d found her when I spotted a golden retriever with salty hair. But it wasn’t Molly. It was a he with eyes so brown and lonely they nearly landed him a place in my backseat.
I didn’t find Molly at the shelter.
I did have a crazy urge at the shelter, however. I wanted to announce Jesus’ declaration: “Be of good cheer. You are lost no more!” I wanted to take the strays home with me, to unlock door after door and fill my car with barking, tail-wagging dogigals. I didn’t do it. As much as I wanted to save the dogs, I wanted to stay married even more.
But I did have the urge, and the urge helps me understand why Jesus made forgiveness his first fearless announcement. Yes, we have disappointed God. But, no, God has not abandoned us.
Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).
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