Not too long ago, I found myself complaining to God because other people’s sins had cost me a great deal of money. A young friend of mine took on the responsibility of raising her nephews and niece and needed an attorney to help her gain custody. I had the funds and offered to help. As the months passed and the bills mounted, I became frightened and a little fractious: Why should I bear the cost for the sins of people I don’t even know?
One day, when my friend was visiting, a breath of sanity blew through the room. I looked at her and realized that she is the one who is really facing the cost of these sins – she and the children. She will be caring for her nephews and nieces for the next 20-plus years, long after I’ve recouped my expenses. Those kids will bear the scars from neglect, abuse, and abandonment, scars I know only too well. My meager contribution was tiny compared to the cost of the fallout from sin that they each would pay. I remembered that I had offered to help precisely because I too have born the cost of sins committed by others.
That’s the way sin is. Its cost is enormous and affects more people than we can imagine. Sin is like the first crack in the ice on a pond that branches out until the solid surface is a mass of small islands that can safely support no one.
One lie makes it easier to tell another and then another. When we are bombarded by lies, we no longer know the truth or who is trustworthy. We find ourselves on shaky chunks of ice, floating farther and farther apart. Buying drugs keeps the dealers in business. More crime is attracted to a neighbourhood. Eventually, it destroys the quality of life for everyone. How many children are killed in drive-by shootings each year? Adultery destroys families, unsettles the foundations of children’s lives, destroys trust, affects future relationships. Every sin is like that with perilous branchings and breakages. My sin overlaps yours, together, we break and cannot mend.
At times, I find myself in conversation with atheists, anti-theists, those who are fed up with God and am often asked, ‘Why is there so much suffering in the world?’ Sin is the answer. We don’t see the patterns of destruction sin traces in our lives. We don’t see how one sin leads to another and then to another. But I have long believed that my childhood was filled with opportunities for people to choose something other than sin. The soldiers who killed Grandpère and Ti might have chosen not to commit that sin. What other sins did they go on to commit? The man who took me from the park sinned. When he raped me, he sinned again. Had he not committed the first sin, would he have committed the second? What madness did the minister invite into his life when he chose to claim me for his own rather than follow the law and call the police? What does it mean to decide that another person is an object for the taking? And what of the sins I have committed, do commit? How do they make it easier to go on sinning. (I can certainly attest that it was hard to break myself of lying or hiding out because I was afraid to face someone. Choosing sin makes it easier to sin.)
Christ forgives our sin if we repent and I do hope to meet those who sinned against me in heaven one day. But forgiveness doesn’t repair the cracked ice. We break it and usually we can’t fix it. Often, we have no idea how big the crack is or how to repair it. Sin gets passed on. Those affected by sin must choose whether to accept it as an opportunity to obey God or to disobey. We can open our hearts, wallets, and homes as my friend is doing. We can turn away or push someone else off a chunk of ice that seems bigger and sturdier so as to ensure our safety; we can either obey or disobey Christ’s commandment to love as He has loved us. But God is never to blame because our “tiny” actions have far reaching consequences.We are more powerful than we realize. Obedience is more powerful than we know. And disobedience is devastating. We need only look at the many places in our lives that ought to be solid but are constantly being broken apart. My choice to obey won’t heal everything but it will heal some things and is part of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
* Image source: http://thehockeywriters.com/the-winter-of-discontent-hitchcocks-precarious-throne/