When I was younger, I struggled greatly with pornography. It was, by far, the greatest battle I’ve ever fought in my life. When I finally got past this addiction (and I thank God for this), I found that I despised that particular sin more than any other. It had held me in bondage for so long and caused so much grief and pain, I just couldn’t stand it. And that feeling bled into people who were still trapped in it.
Here’s what I’m talking about: On my way home from work, I pass by a porn shop. Anytime I saw somebody going into the shop, I’d get mad at them. Didn’t they know how disgusting that place was? Didn’t they understand that they are hurting themselves as well as the girls being exploited? Why are they being so stupid?? Can’t they see how trapped they are?
But all this anger I felt at them was really anger I had felt toward myself. I had to learn to have compassion for those who are aren’t yet free from bonds which held me. To truly love the ‘sinner’ while hating the ‘sin’. Instead of passing the disappointment I felt in myself onto them, I had to learn to pass the hope that would eventually be fulfilled when I was free. To have the compassion upon them that God had on me. I completely deserved to be cut off forever from his Grace for what I did, but instead, he loved me when I least deserved it. This is what I had to learn to feel for those who were/are still in the midst of the quicksand I was pulled from.
See, I don’t believe getting delivered from a sin is enough. I believe God wants us to actually work to undo it’s effects in the world. To serve those who need a hand up.
I completed a race this past year call The Tough Mudder. Toward the end of this grueling 10 mile event was an obstacle called ‘Everest’ (link has some language, mute if you prefer). It was a quarter pipe, like you’d see at a skate park. We had to run up the increasingly vertical side of the pipe, grab onto the ledge, and pull ourselves up and over. The problem was that the preceding 9 miles of running up ski slopes, overcoming obstacles and being purposely kept wet in the freezing temperatures left most of us far too drained to beat this challenge. The surface of the quarter pipe was also pretty well slathered with slick mud.
So what happened is this: people built human chains for others to climb up and get on top of the ledge. Then, the people at the top of the ledge would lean over and help pull others up to the summit. At the point I went, I had to run and jump, barely grabbing onto the ledge that was 12 or so feet off the ground. At that point 2 or 3 guys grabbed my arms and helped haul me up. I probably would never have made it on my own. Once I was up, I turned around and helped the guy who came up behind me.
I think that’s how beating sin should work. If I had stood at the top of that obstacle and shook my head at how pathetic the people below were, I would have been the worst hypocrite on the planet. It also would have resulted in a ton of failure. Once you get up, give a hand to the others trying to get up.
I know God is the one who delivers us and frees us. But I also know that he made us to live in community and to help one another. If we don’t fulfill our roles, fewer people are going to make it over the challenge. And how horrible it is to be like me and instead of helping, standing at the top and angrily shaking my finger, discouraging anyone who would seek to ascend.
Jesus never sinned. But instead of loathing the wrong that people did, he had compassion on people. He alone had the right to look down on us, and he didn’t. He was the only person who could beat the obstacle of sin on his own. But instead of continuing to run off, leaving us to follow in his example, he stopped and reached over the ledge; ready to grab the muddy hand of anyone who would follow in his footsteps.
We must follow this example. We must accept his help to get over the challenges of sin we find in the path of our lives, then be ready to turn and offer a hand to others.