This weekend I participated in a lot of discussion on the importance of clearly teaching and articulating the nature and evil of sin, and I believe much of the dialogue was fruitful. This led me to remember a recent assignment that I was required to complete for a class that I’m taking which asked us to reflect on evil and how understanding our own sinful and evil hearts relates to our faith in Christ, below were my thoughts:
One of the passages in the Bible that I have spent the most time with is the Sermon on the Mount. I recall hearing of a Muslim apologist once argue that the ethic within that sermon could not be true… because no one could live up to it! In our culture it’s easy to drift into the idea that we’re basically good, but spending five minutes with Jesus on the mount convinces me of the evil within my heart every time; it’s not for nothing that he can simply address his audience as “evil” (Matt. 7:11).
What gets me is Jesus’ focus on the inner heart combined with his extreme expectation of virtue. An angry word, murder. A lingering stare, adultery. Perfection. That’s the demand. That’s the law. And it’s so far from me. Don’t get me wrong, I can put on a good show. Most of the people I work with would say I’m a good person, one of the better ones even! But they don’t really know me. Not when measured against Christ’s standard. Andy Crouch once described himself in the following way, “If you knew the full condition of my heart, my fantasies and grievances, my anxieties and my darkest solitary thoughts, you would declare me a danger to myself and others.”1 He’s not alone.
I find a lot within Christianity to be confusing, not sin. I get that. And I believe that’s why I find Jesus so irresistible. That the only one who truly measured up, that obeyed the law with absolute perfection, not only offers complete atonement for every one of my evil thoughts, actions, and desires, but he also offers his own perfection to me. (II Cor. 5:21) Not just his sacrifice, but his life, clothed in his righteousness.
In her book, Confronting Christianity, apologist Rebecca McLaughlin points out, that due to the nature of the human condition, “no friendship in the world would last a day if we could see each other’s thoughts… all our relationships hinge, to some extent, on hiding… In varying degrees and ways, we find ourselves making a choice: to be known or to be loved.” I hide a lot, it’s why I have a few friends. But murder, adultery, theft, and so, so much pompous arrogance and pride, I’m guilty of it all. Being known seems out of the question for someone like me.
But oh the beauty of Jesus Christ, the wonder of the Gospel. For someone like me, with this much evil hidden within, there is not just the promise of “no condemnation” (Romans 8:1), there is, perhaps even more staggeringly, the assurance that “I have been known fully” (I Cor. 13:12; what human doesn’t truly crave that?) and yet not left to myself, I, even while yet an enemy, have been loved to the point of death on the Cross. (Romans 5:8) Who could pass that up? Jesus is the only answer for me.
- Andy Crouch, “It’s Time to Reckon with Celebrity Power,” The Gospel Coalition, March 24, 2018, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/time-reckon-celebrity-power/
- Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 21214