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Friday, March 31, 2006

God on the Sleeve - Part Duex
I got the following email, which I assume to be in reference to my post linked above (I'm keeping the author anonymous, since they respond directly in a comment):
I think the devil works overtimes on people who try to be holy.
The devil doesn't offer the world as a temptation.
The devil slips in a temptation that looks like a piece of hair. A temptation that seems harmless and might even seem to be good. And the devil does it again, and again. and again until that hair is wrapped so well, so strong, that it could hold up the Golden Gate Bridge.

That is how a spy lures an honest patriotic citizen.

That is how "the scrounger" got the German guards in "The Great Escape."

That is how the devil disgraces some people who seem so holy.
Now, anything referencing "The Great Escape" is a good comment in my book. But this does bring up a point serious have to deal with: small sins lead to big ones. (Or as Mark Shea puts it: "Sin makes us stupid.")

It can be easy to believe that God won't care if you do some small action. Gossip about coworker, let your eyes linger a little too long on a woman whose clothing is a little too revealing, a small lie, etc. And that might be true; some sins are easily forgivable. The danger comes in when we begin to believe that just because a sin is very small, we can comtinue to commit that sin repeatedly and then wallow in it. Taking the example of woman above: First we look at women we pass on the street. Then we look at women in Maxim-style men's magazines. Then we look at Playboy. Then we move on to hard-core pornography. Then the allure of even that wears off, and we get into kinkier stuff. Studies have shown (too lazy to find a link) that most people who partake of kiddie porn start with "regular" pornography. But pronography is like a drug, you get used to it and you start needing bigger hits to get the same thrill.

So it is with all sin; something may start small, but become large over time if we don't cut it off. We're going to commit the small sins; we can't avoid it, we're human. What we need to do after committing those sins is acknowledge those sins, confess them to God, make our penance for them and then go forward with a firm intent not to commit them again. It can be a lifelong process, but if we keep it up we can overcome these sins with God's help.

Studies have shown that serial killers often are highly involved with pornography. They move to killing when just sex isn't enough to stimulate them anymore. Ted Bundy credited it with how he got his start.

Don't know about the penance, but I agree with the rest of it. Repent of your sins before they start to consume you.

"Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.
Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. " -- 1 Corinthians 9: 25-26

We work ourselves hard. Just as a fighter would work harder to burn off a chesesteak he ahd the broke his diet, so we need to work harder to "burn off" any sins we might have committed. Also, in performing penance, we unite ourselves more fully with the sufferings of Christ.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9


"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." Romans 6:6-7

As a Protestant, I hold that you don't need to perform penance. Penance is perhaps of psychological benefit to the Christian for emphasizing repentance, but it is ultimately unnecessary for earning God's forgiveness of sins. Our sins were washed away in Christ's substitutionary atonement which we have access to by faith. Ultimately nothing we can do will pay God back for them.

However we should seek to do good works, not because we must do them to burn off sin, but because we should want to do them. We should desire to follow God, not out of guilt for past misdeeds or fear of the consequences, but out of loyalty and thankfulness for what he has done for us and all mankind.

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