Sugarcoating Sin’s Bitterness

Victor Chininin Buele

When I worked in DC, we were at the tipping point of implementing our fears in that post-9/11 world into law and practice. Riding the Metro to work, I’d always hear our WMATA recording ask us, “if you see something, say something.” If we were to see a suspicious object or a situation or a person, we were not to doubt but report it. Fresh images were in our minds of the colossal Twin Towers coming down and people dying. We were determined to never let it happen again. Or at least, we were deadly afraid of it happening again.

Terrorism seeks the disruption of “normal” life. You just don’t expect the nice, kind doctor in the lab coat to blow up the hospital, or the sweet pregnant lady that was sitting next to you at the school function to set the school on fire. Terrorism is successful when it leads to ever-present doubt and suspicion. That’s how terror wins.

Yet, this hyper-alertness is very important because it helps with survival. Or so we think. If we doubt everything, then we will be able to report that which is strange and obliterate terror. Right? Wrong! We just can’t.

We wear ourselves out. We can not possibly be on alert always, ever, all the time. We can’t be evaluating every situation and every person. We are finite. We get tired, and we get complacent. Or we become the boy who cried wolf, or even worse, we are told we are the boy even though what we are seeing is real.

So, two simple takeaways today: 1) We can’t stand at the watchtower alone. We need others to watch with us. We need others to listen and challenge whatever needs to be challenged. We need others to act. 2) We have a messed up view of causality. Psychologists use the acronym DARVO: denial, attack, reversal of victim-offender. When we are confronted with our sin and feel threatened, the first response is to deny the sin ever happened. Once the truth is made clear (from our very own mouth and actions, mind you), we attack. It’s full survival mode at that point; it was the other person’s fault. And when it becomes clear that the actions or the abuse were clearly that sinner’s fault and responsibility, the next act is to flip the script: I am the victim of that horrible, horrible victim. Don’t you see it?, we will be asked, she is a sinner! And let’s face it, it is a lot easier for us to start chanting, SINNER, SINNER, SINNER! than it is to actually sort out the whole picture in the light of who Christ is and what He called us to be: Christlike.

One of our most fundamental, cultural heresies in America is that people are good, inherently good.

And when we believe in such a heresy, one of the most fundamental follow-up heresies is this: Grace becomes putting everything in its best possible light. Sin becomes putting everything in its worst possible light. Grace becomes about perception, which it most definitely is not.

Naming the sin, killing the sin, repenting of the sin, and redemption from sin all become impossibilities at that point. Let us not be surprised that cancel culture can creep in like this. For grace to have its full strength effect in our dead bodies and revive them, we have to recognize just that: that apart from Christ we are dead. Our sin is death. It produces death. We need to recognize, name, and repent of the totality and the depth of our sins.

It will most definitely not have a pretty ring to it, and it will cost us dearly. There just is no possible way to sugarcoat sin and live. Brazilian pastor Hernandez Dias Lopes says that the lie has short legs. I found that very insightful and just awkward enough when translated to English to stick in my mind. As a lifelong owner of short legs, I know this: it takes me many, many more steps for me to keep with someone with longer legs. It requires more effort, and I look ridiculous while doing it.

Do not waste your life trying to catch up, always, ever, all the time. Go ahead and picture it, me making four steps for every one step from a tall person. Laugh at it. Then, come back, surrender the lie. Live in the light. Name your sin. Repent of it. Be redeemed by the Redeemer.

When is the last time you were able to name your sin without sugarcoating it?

I have some pills that need to be made specifically for me at a compound pharmacy. It costs extra to have them coated. I never do. And every once in a while right before bed when I’m taking my pill the water will hit it just right that its bitterness hits me. There is no way of getting rid of it. I remember getting sick in Mexico City once and getting my antibiotics from Dr. Simi’s Farmacias Similares. Those things tasted like death itself.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Ephesians 1:7 

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