Monday, December 15, 2014

Cats at the door, the problem of sin, and the miracle of the manger

You may not remember, but Maggie the Wonder Dog is a recovering chicken-shaker. In fact, she has, on occasion, indulged in terminal shaking. A sturdy latch on the chicken coop and considerable caution in opening the door, coupled with strict scheduling of the chicken's time out (never corresponding with Maggie's) have made Maggie's chicken shaking a thing of the past. Imagine my surprise when I found Max the Biting Cat positioned just outside the chicken coop door, determinedly considering how to get inside. It was apparent that he had a chicken supper on his mind, not merely chasing and shaking. As I approached the door, he made a hasty retreat and pretended to take a nap while facing in the opposite direction. I was not fooled.

Apparently, there are some behaviors that are nearly irresistible to carnivorous animals. Snagging chickens, whether for shaking or for supper, seems to be one of them, and has necessitated considerable effort on my part to keep my chickies safe. The animal nature being what it is, I don't know why I'm surprised. 

It turns out that, human nature being what it is, we humans find wrong-doing nearly irresistible ourselves, and I am often astonished at the foolish choices we make. What is even more shocking to me is the evil in which people choose to indulge. What about wickedness seems like a good idea? How does anyone envision a happy ending to evil? I don't understand it and I'm pretty sure I never will. 

What breaks my heart, though, is my own foolishness. The poor choices, the rushing ahead of God, the misplaced priorities, the hasty and unkind words that cause unnecessary pain may not seem like utter wickedness to me, but sin is sin where God is concerned and He takes it all seriously. In fact, Jesus died for my sin, just as He died for the one who commits the most heinous crime imaginable. I have heard it said many times that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. I don't know about the literal accuracy of that statement, but metaphorically I'm pretty sure it's correct. No one gets a higher position, or a lower one, on the sin meter. It's level ground no matter how minor we view our own sin. 

What is it, then, that can change us? It will take more than a strong latch and caution with the door, that's for sure!  The Apostle Paul wrote that, even when he wanted to do good, he ended up doing wrong. He asked the question we might all ask. Who can set me free from my own bent toward wrongdoing? It turns out that there is only One who can set us free. The Lord Jesus Christ wrapped Himself in flesh, left unimaginable wonders in heaven and came to earth, determined to die as the spotless, sinless lamb of God to set us free. He not only determined to do it, He did it! Once He set us free, He determined to keep us free and He left the Holy Spirit to guide us and constrain us. 

We may find wrong-doing enticing and we may even find it pleasurable for a time, but, because of the Christ Child and His sacrifice, we do not have to find it irresistible. As we go through this season of Advent let us not forget that that the Babe in the Manger came because of our sin and He stayed until He had set us free. We honor Him most when we stay free. 
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