Readings for 3rd Sunday in Lent
Luke 13:1-9; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Ezekiel 33:7-20
In his book From Beirut to Jerusalem, journalist Thomas Friedman describes some of the ways that ordinary citizens of Beirut tried to cope with the military violence that racked their city through the 1980’s. Survivors of a random airstrike or IED explosion would invent elaborate and entirely fictional reasons to account for why they had been spared while others had died. It was a form of willful self-delusion that helped people feel safe, even though they were not.
We all have our favorite “coping mechanisms” for dealing with sin. What’s yours?
People in Jesus’ day sought comfort in finding fault with the victims. “They must have done something to deserve it.” This idea – that other people are worse sinners than me – is a deadly, prideful delusion that lets me turn a blind eye to my own failures (Luke 13).
People in Ezekiel’s day tried to use an accounting trick on their sins. “I’ll just try to cancel out my bad deeds with more good deeds.” This kind of wishful thinking doesn’t take seriously the corrosive effect of even one sin on our relationship with God (Ezek 33).
Finally, the apostle Paul warns the people of his day not to take God’s grace for granted as many of the Israelites did (1 Cor 10). There is no way to “cope” with our sins or make them “safe”. Repentance is the only way. And having been confessed, our sins must be forgiven – erased, destroyed, obliterated forever by the purifying grace of Christ. That is God’s work. Trust Him to do it.
Stop trying to cope with your sins. Instead, give them to Jesus. It is the only way to live.