Monday, March 23, 2015

Coffee and Peace: Or What's Not a Sin

(Yesterday, the Preacher was working on a new blog layout for me, a little simpler and with more room for, y'know - words and stuff. So this is yesterday's post. Not that you're counting, but I'm a rule-follower. Now back to your regularly scheduled Lent.)

Fact: I was in middle school when I realized drinking coffee wasn't a sin. 
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When I was little, my grandma was the only person I knew who drank coffee, and at the time she wasn't really a church-y person. I adored her. But kids are black-and-white, and I thought coffee was wrong because my parents didn't drink it, and my grandma did. 

I'm so glad I was wrong. 

It turns out I was wrong about more than just coffee. Over the years, I've found that feeling bad doesn't always mean I've sinned. Sometimes I'm just fighting pride, and sometimes I'm breaking away from a wrong message.

And maybe you can relate to these:

5 Hard Things That Aren't Actually Sins: 

5) Accepting help. I'm Appalachian at heart, and the first rule of Appalachians is this: Do it yourself. And the second is like it: If you can't do it yourself, ask your family. But don't accept a hand-out.

When we pastored in Ohio, one of our board members was a silver-bearded sanguine with a wide smile and a generous heart. He and his wife immediately became our family. One day, our friend wanted to buy lunch for the Preacher, but he declined. Our friend said, "Pastor, why won't you let me bless you? You're keeping me from a blessing." We didn't need help, but we learned to accept a gift with grace.

If the God who made everything with a word brought friends to pray with Him in the Garden and asked for a drink from a Samaritan woman, why are we so determined to go it alone? We can give and receive, both without sin.

4) Feeling sad or angry. Sometimes in faith, we confuse joy with happiness. It's hard to grieve or admit we're struggling, as though God created Stepford Wives instead of sons and daughters.

But the truth is, we're made in the image of a God with strong emotions: Anger. Grief. Sorrow. Jesus upended tables and made a scene. And of course He wept

Sometimes anger is sinful, but not always. God is infinite and perfect and also has shades of emotion. We can reflect Him in that.

3) Being honest with God. There was a time in my life when I only said safe prayers. I was sure if I spoke my real thoughts - my fears and questions and even my doubts - God would be shocked.

I guess that was before I read David's words, though. Or even Jesus's. As it turns out, I'm nothing new - and neither are you. God can handle our questions and our pain, and incredibly He wants to hear from us.  

2) Wondering about the time during church. Years ago at the end of a long service we attended, the speaker scolded the crowd. He said we'd been looking at our watches, and we were putting God on the clock. He told us to repent. 
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And for that service, maybe he was right. But is it really a sin to check the time? Maybe people needed lunch. Maybe they were up late with babies. Or maybe they were just people who liked to know the time. It might be annoying.

But annoying me isn't really a sin. And neither is annoying you. So maybe we could just give each other a break? 

1) Making a mistake. Churches often define sin to kids like this: Sin is when we make a mistake. Then we list some possibilities to limit the field - lying, stealing, maybe cheating on a test.

Most kids don't take the limitations to heart, though. They're built to generalize, and they know a lot about mistakes - broken plates, lost glasses, chipped front teeth. They grow up thinking accidents really upset God. 

But a broken plate's just a broken plate, and declaring the wrong college major or driving a lemon or moving to Chicago when you wish you'd gone to Dallas. . . those are just mistakes. (Unless you're Jonah.) And God doesn't seem nearly as discouraged by our humanity as we do. 

He loves us in the midst of our questions and mistakes, our sorrow and our scrapes, our weakness and our overwhelming need. With grace, He opens pierced hands to offer peace. 

And peace is what all our rules could never give us.  

Free from not-sins, 

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