- Eldon Peterson
Sin: A Chronic Illness
This week I went to Salt Lake to see a pulmonary specialist for a chronic cough that I have had for well over a year. Having already exhausted the possible causes with respiratory tests, chest x-rays and even a CT scan, the decision was to pass me and my symptoms onto a specialist.
Have you ever suffered from some kind of “chronic” problem? The Oxford dictionary defines my cough (and diabetes) as chronic, saying: (of a person) having an illness persisting for a long time or constantly recurring. The first and most important step in seeking a cure for any ailment is an accurate diagnosis of the problem. Symptoms must be carefully interpreted so that underlying causes are not overlooked.
There is a second definition of chronic that I want to blend into this conversation: (of a problem) long-lasting and difficult to eradicate. This would be everything from chronic car problems to relationship issues. As I considered these definitions I realized how sin should be described as a chronic problem that afflicts everyone.
Why? Because sin, like my diabetes, it is not something that is eradicated by hard work. It not only impacts how I live my life, but can be a key contributor to my death. How is sin like this? Unabated, sin will control how I live and as Romans 6:23 opens by saying, “When people sin, they earn what sin pays—death...”
Misdiagnosing sin as merely being a moral or behavior problem makes it impossible for us to find a cure. Jesus taught us that our sinful behavior is not the problem that needs treatment but merely a symptom of a greater problem. Think again of my cough. While it would be nice to find medicine that could control the cough, what I really desire is to know the cause and treat this. Our individual sins do not make us sinful, rather, we commit sins because, at the very center of our being, we are sinful.
Possibly you remain unconvinced that our problem with sin is chronic. However, like my diabetes, sin will not disappear with time – a cure is needed. And while, “Currently, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes... Despite recent advances in anti-diabetic strategies, no strategy is clinically successful” (National Center for Biotechnology Information) the Good News is that unlike diabetes, there is a cure for my sin. It is the cure for sin that we celebrate at Easter.
At Easter we remember how Jesus died for our sins on the cross and was raised on Easter morning to give us life. Our hope comes not from looking deeper within ourselves, but by looking to and remembering what God did for us. The misdiagnosis told us that it is up to us to choose to do the right, however, trying harder or following rules only reveals the chronic nature of our sin and does not cure us.
Our only hope, the only cure, is to trust in what God has done for us in Christ. Then, as 2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” The cure for my chronic sin problem is Christ. Jesus says that sin does not originate “out there” but within us, “the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matthew 15:18-19)
What can be done for a heart infected by sin and how does Easter relate to this? The cure for those suffering from chronic sin is to receive the new heart God promises, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one”. (Ezekiel 36:26)
God does not call us merely to stop sinning; He does not only treat our symptoms. He addresses the root cause of all our problems, our heart, and promises to give us a new heart to make us righteous when we place our faith in Him. Once we are made new in Christ, sin’s hold on us is broken. We can now live in freedom because of what Jesus accomplished for us at Easter in dying for our sins and rising again to give us life. As Romans 6:23 concludes saying, “…But God gives his people a free gift—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”