The Moonshiners promoted the unreasonable expectations of the church as it drove folks to drink in secret more. The church was dependent on drunken regrets to increase attendance and sin-offerings. Both publicly blamed each other for the town-folks unhappiness, yet they were necessary for each others benefit and existence. This beneficiary relationship between rivals has been termed a “Baptists and bootleggers” scenario.
In continuing with my theme of identifying what sin is not, I present to you my second “Not”:
2. Sin is not benign (neither are we)- I was raised modern evangelical, I guess. In hindsight, my mentors seemed to minimize the importance of the Old Testament (presenting as “past tense”), and magnify the New Testament as a replacement to make the original writings more of an obsolete back story. I kinda even worry that we will now overcompensate for the next generation before we rally to view it as “The Testament” and let it flow as equal in relevance in every way. My point is this though; it had once steered me to view sin as old news that I need not attend to.
But sin is active and interactive. It’s insatiable and hungry to separate us from God’s law (1 John 3:4). It’s never satisfied (Romans 7:5). It does not stagnate or plateau. It can grow, compound and fester (James 1:15 ). It can be inspired or inflamed by spiritual influences beyond our capacity of understanding (1 John 3: 8-10). Sin is an aggressor on the offense (Romans 7:23 ).
Let’s not get too comfortable being the victims though. We’re not passive in this. It’s a sickness by invitation only. With knowledge comes choice. The “tree of knowing” quite possibly was our moment of owning responsibility. Sin, to me, appears symbiotic. Chickens and eggs, you know? Sin is nothing to us without our behaviors, nature and flesh as a vessel. Our unholy tendencies are nothing without the vulture-like persistence of sin.
I think we choose mutuality with sin. It is ever-consuming and we are ever-drawn to it (John 8:44 , Romans 7:15). You may notice that the Ten Commandments do not read as unfortunate victimizations. Imagine; “Thou shalt not be forced to kill”, “Thou shalt not be tricked into coveting” or “Though shalt not be manipulated into stealing”. No they read as directives to people who have investment of choice and behavior. Sin is prowling but we own our consummation with it.
I think we have a Baptists and bootleggers relationship with sin. We often blame it as an outside party rather than claim it as a partnership. This discounts our requirement to mind our ways. We devalue our debt simply because we’ve heard that it’s already been paid for. Conversely, sin benefits from “blaming” us by omission. The sick relationship is empowered when we over-fear it (though we have been redeemed) because helplessness induces laziness and hopelessness inspires carelessness.
I don’t mean to present sin as a conscience being (that sounds like a whole ‘nother topic) but as a fuel that means little without a willing vessel. It sits in our tank, yet we must admit to turning the key.
In the flesh, we all see the effects of sickness in this world, but we wouldn’t even need a word for it if everyones body was perfectly healthy at all times. It’s defined only in contrast to health. It has many forms and degrees of consequence. But, it “is” only because of what it’s “not”.
Either way, it is malignant and should be treated as such. So even though sin is not easy to define (see my “Not” #1), it is still defin-able, worth trying and worth allowing the definition to evolve further.