Dull and Deadly
“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” – Romans 7:15
I hope this bores you.
Paul Tillich taught that sin is best understood as a state of estrangement. “We are estranged from God. Estranged from the origin and aim of our life.” Sin is a grand, cosmic problem. It is much bigger than the last bad thing you did.
First comes Sin’s dominion then come sins committed. We live at a distance from God, but someone has to be in charge. Who is in charge of your life? You are! Indeed, in America we’ve almost made a religion out of personal liberty. Seriously, who but a god could practice our sense of entitlement? We aren’t just estranged from God, we’re also cut off from our own best selves. We act selfishly, hurtfully, cruelly.
As a result we hurt other people. And then we recoil from one another. So finally, we are estranged from God, cut off from our own best selves and divided from one another.
Bored yet? You ought to be. Perhaps the Tillichian theology of tri-fold estrangement puts a new intellectual gloss on things, but you already knew it in your gut. You don’t need a devotion to make you feel bad about sin. We already feel bad. Tell us something we don’t know. Boooooring!
It’s good to be bored by sin. After all, we’re intimately familiar with it. We know it inside out and backwards. There’s no surprise there. No delight. What should surprise us is what comes next. We should be surprised, amazed, delighted, thrilled, by the fact that we have a savior, not by the fact that we need saving.
Dear God, help us realize that our sinfulness isn’t just deadly, it’s dull.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.