Thought for the Day by Emma Temple (All Hallows’)
‘Perhaps God wants you to be in the wrong place?’
These words were said to me on an advent retreat last year, while I was in the throes of anxiety about where to go next and what I should be doing with my life. They were the paradigm-shifting jolt I needed to get out of my anxious head, and realise the truth at the heart of our faith; that we are not called to be perfect, we are called to be Christ-like.
Working through Job this season, we’ve seen a man grappling with his commitment to sinlessness. Surely, he says, if he is blameless and his sins have been accounted for, he shouldn’t be suffering as he is? I think this is typical of how most of us see sin, whether we admit it or not – we think that if we carefully avoid doing the wrong thing, then God will reward us, whether that’s with prosperity in this life or salvation in the next. While I like to think I understand sin in a Romans 6 way, I more often slip into thinking like Job’s friends, cautiously avoiding doing the wrong thing, taking the wrong path, or being in the wrong place, often to the detriment of being loving and kind to myself and those around me.
But what Romans 6 tells us is that ‘sin shall no longer be our master’ – we have a new life through our baptism, a life that is free from the legalism of perfection. Sin rules over us just as much if we are constantly tiptoeing around it as if we are constantly falling into it; either way, we spend our lives in its service.
But the grace of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection frees us from this cycle to have life and life to the full. As we’re told in a quote often attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.’
So perhaps God does want us to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, getting up to all the wrong things. Grace sets us free to live, to make mistakes, to love our neighbours courageously and actively, and to embrace the mess that comes with taking up our crosses following Jesus. Romans 6 calls us to dedicate our lives to this way of discipleship, to ‘offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.’
What are the ways you cautiously avoid sin in your life? What would it look like to be set free from those?