>Mountains, Moonshiners and Malignancy


From the hills of Kentucky and across the Big Sandy River into the most isolated portions of West Virgina, a complex relationship was born long ago and still continues today. The ‘shiners noticed a growth in demand whenever the local preachers gave hard sermons on drinking. The hollers were small so no one wanted to be seen buying it; instead they purchased the backwoods goods. However, the more they drank, the guiltier they felt and therefore they attended church more regularly for “Heaven-pass” assurances of forgiveness and “fire and brimstone” pep-guilt talks. 

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.

As a non-stationary state that just exists; it’s vague yet complex. Sin’s not dependent on being deliberate, known, inspired, an action or even known of. It can be all of those things though. It’s sometimes just the thought of an action or even an inaction (Matthew 5:21-30). 

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”.

Does sickness actually exist other than being “non-health”? Illness is nothing without a body to corrupt. It’s certainly still assertive though, aint it? Similarly, is sin not just any state of being non-Godly? Does sin “be” outside of corrupting our connection to God’s love? I don’t know, but am curious as to other thoughts. 

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.

3 thoughts on “>Mountains, Moonshiners and Malignancy

  1. >*I* am constantly striving to strike a balance between taking responsibility for my sin and blaming it on something or someone else. (which in itself is a sin because I am the one doing the striving – Proverbs 3:6).I often hope for the time where there will be no more sin and all will perfect and all will be healthy and even in that wishing, I dismiss the current reality of my sin because after all it's impossible for me to not sin – being human at all. I was recently reminded that Jesus said He was "the Way" which means he's not at the end of the path, but he's all along the Way, walking with me (which means I can't blame Him either for not coming back yet to save us all from the fallen world)….and temptation is somewhere right there…sometimes hiding in the woods, stalking, waiting to pounce but sometimes walking right beside us seemingly just a good ole' buddy hanging out with Jesus and me.I've often relied on 1 Peter 5:8 and verses of the like as an "excuse" for my sin. After all, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. "Well how," I say "am I supposed to fight *that*? A Roaring Lion? I have no control over that…and no chance of winning a fight between me and a roaring lion." But the beginning of that verse says "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert." I need to be of sober spirit and be alert. Sheesh – so much blame back to me – so much I must do to avoid sin. It is too much for me. I can't do it. Sin is always there. Waiting to pounce, or trying to become my friend but it's always my choice to let it in and the only way I can do that is by being of sober spirit and alert. I'm busy, I'm tired, I'm weak….Alas – it is not my battle..it's just a choice. I can choose to walk right beside him allowing Him to be my friend and walk behind him allowing him to encounter the roaring lion 1st (which is what always brings me the most delight). If I am willing, my Lord is able Jude 1:24-25Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen

  2. >I am not well studied in the word, but I agree with how we should be aware and to a degree take responsibility for our sin. When I first became a believer, I was given the impression that for me, sin was now non existent. Not from the world, but apparently I was freed of it. This caused me to ignore a lot of thoughts and cautions when it came to how I lived. Then as if I was punishing myself for my previous actions, I hung tightly to every possible sin I could recall ever engaging in. I can become more obsessed with the sin than the actual freedom from it. I have been trying to dance a more fine line lately. I agree it is more of a partnership.

  3. >Breanna, Great thoughts. I love your honing in on Jesus being "The way". I've never put those two words under that same microscope. I'll be dwelling on that for quite a bit.James, thanks for jumping on here brother. I was excited to see your name. I too become obsessed with the sin more than the freedom sometimes…and other times vice versa. Neither one is a healthy obsession for any of us, I bet.

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