Tag Archives: Sin

Unlucky Friday 13th

This month includes a Friday 13th.

It also includes a Friday 20th, but that date never seems to get any special attention. Though difficult to spell, we are all aware of paraskevidekatriphobia: fear of Friday the thirteenth.

Christians are to be people who know the Spirit, but also know the foolishness of superstition. Christian preaching caused a riot, led by a silversmith who made lucky charms – he could see his business withering (Acts 19:23-41). Before Israel reached the land of promise, they were warned against charms (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

So I well know that Friday 13th is dumb.

Why, then, does it still register? Why does it always cross my mind that there could be an unlucky day, when I know it’s rubbish?

That’s not the only example. Without following the superstitions, I still note: when a black cat crosses my path; when there’s a ladder I could walk under; when Australian cricketers are on a score of 87. All folly – and all still in my mind.

I think this is a clear example of what each Christian struggles with: the persistence of sin and folly.

In Philippians 3, Paul warns against false teachers in church, those who would enslave us to laws and pride. Paul himself was the perfect candidate for such empty confidence, but he gave up all his ‘achievements’ in order to know Christ.

But note how Paul admits his ongoing weakness and failure. He’s not yet there:

not that I have already attained this or am already perfect

I do not consider that I have made it my own

I press on towards the goal

Do you struggle with sin? Does persistent error get you down? That’s normal! What’s not normal is thinking the Christian life is easy and always godly. Jesus will complete his remodelling of everyone who trusts him, but renovation is always messy.

So how about we use Friday 13th as a fun reminder. Let’s laugh at the folly of thinking one number can affect us (but only on a Friday), as we laugh at the folly of our own sin. And let’s remember to ‘press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’.




Ashley Madison and the search for security

The folly of sin is when we flee from security in search of security. We run away from what’s good and justify it as the search for good. It’s a daily universal pattern. Sometimes this pattern becomes even more clear than usual.

Earlier this year there was big news for the customers of Ashley Madison – their personal details had been hacked and published on the internet.

This would be poor form for any online business, but was more nerve-jangling for these clients since Ashley Madison exists entirely to promote infidelity and sexual unfaithfulness. Who cares about credit card details once the whole world knows your secrets?

The irony of this hack is that it was a security breach of the company whose business model was to breach security.

Ashley Madison promote married dating (ie, cheating). They target people who have made promises to a partner, people who have also heard promises from their spouse.

Of course no marriage is perfect. Yet it’s wonderful that men and women seriously promise each other the security of life-long commitment, “until death.” That’s a basis for security!

But at some stage the clients of the Adultery Madison Ashley Madison opted for the fragile security of an on-line business. “Oh look”, they might have thought, “they have secure socket layer security. I will definitely trust that!”

And so the potential adulterer says farewell to the security of a spousal promise, and entrusts privacy to the security of the internet. Dumb choice.

That is like sin in the heart of every person. Just as in the Garden of Eden, where the man and woman lost the whole garden because they opted instead for the one banned fruit.

Or, in the Lord’s words through his prophet, “my people have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

The folly of sin: we run away from what we really want, under the impression that we will find what we want.

So Ashley Madison is a jolt to all of us, not only the individuals named.

  • It’s time to turn back from seeking good things in bad places.
    Repent of the adultery sites, of ‘financial security’, of looking as good as whitewashed tombs.
  • It’s time to turn back to the living water himself, Jesus Christ our good Lord.



Sin, law & death in Romans 7

Romans 7 is astoundingly moving. Paul speaks of an awful internal conflict: loving right while doing wrong.

Romans 7 is also a bit tricky. Exactly who is the person feeling this internal conflict? Is it a Christian? Perhaps it’s a Jewish person who loves the law but does not yet trust Jesus. Or someone else altogether.

I’m not trying to solve that here! I want to make a smaller observation – knowing that getting the details clear will help us eventually answer the bigger questions.

My observation is this: in Romans 7, Paul is at pains to honour the goodness of God and God’s law.

It’s clear there’s a relation between God’s law, and sin in us, and death. But what kind of relationship? If we err in answering this question, the mistake will lead us into danger. I believe avoiding serious error is part of Paul’s concern in this chapter.

Hence, Paul excludes: he rules out two wrong relationships in these three terms. Check out his questions.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! (v.7)

Did that which is good [the law], then, become death to me? By no means! (v.13)

We cannot say that God’s law is sin.

There is a link between sin and law. It’s a relationship not easy to put into words. In Romans 8:3, Paul speaks of the law as ‘weakened’ by the flesh. From 7:7, we could say that sin is ‘enlivened’ by the law. But whatever we say, we never have reason to say the good law from God is sin.

Likewise, we cannot say that God’s law becomes death.

Death is not the overflow of God’s law. Death is the overflow of sin. As with Adam, it’s sin that leads to the judgement of death (see Rom 5:12-14).

The law of God is good. And when we learn this law – which is important for every Christian – we have Paul’s example of right thinking. We are to steer clear of assigning evil and death to God, or to his good gift. Instead we remember:

So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.


We’re a mixed up bunch

In Albury-Wodonga, the weekly free newspapers used to include a column of reflections. They were written by local  ministers, or similar (authors included a local Baha’i leader, as well as someone from the local humanist society branch). I don’t know why they stopped. Equally, I don’t know if they achieved anything!

Cleaning up my computer, I found a few of mine. In the interests of recycling, I will re-release them on this blog.

July does the same thing every year. The weather makes it less appealing to ride my bike. The TV makes it more inviting to watch others ride their bikes. Yes – I’m addicted to the Tour de France.

Each year I again fall for the helicopter shots of tourist sites, for the speed of fast flat racing, for the pain of riding up ridiculously long mountain roads. There’s a lot to see: fanatical fans; beautiful country; selfless teamwork; athleticism.

This year there was even the chance of an Australian winner. I hope I’m not crazy, but I tried to support Cadel Evans by riding my bike down Cadell St in Albury a few times.

Yet cycling has a problem. Drugs. Again in 2007 there were accusations of cheating and lying. Some cyclists were caught, some teams were kicked out.

There’s no excuse for cheating, but I am not surprised that people try.

These ups and downs are simply an expression of what people are like. We’re a mixed-up bunch, both wonderful and awful at the same time. I started with the Tour de France, so here’s a famous French thinker. Blaise Pascal called people ‘the glory and the shame of the universe.’

If there’s a shadow over cycling it is because there is a shadow over humanity.

Jesus also knew that we’re a mixed-up bunch. Talking about families in Luke’s gospel chapter 11, Jesus pointed out that we don’t give our children scorpions if they ask for food. Yet we are far from perfect. He said that we who are evil know how to give good gifts.

That’s certainly confused. Is there any solution?

It’s no solution to pretend everything is alright. There are drugs in pro sport. And there is failure in our lives.

It’s no solution to give up. Drug testing should continue. And we still admire those able to say sorry.

Jesus’ words point us to the real solution, prayer to God our Father. He’s the one who gives the good gifts of life and forgiveness.
August 2007