Stop what you’re doing! Set down that cinnamon-crunch bagel! Step away from that stapler! I hate to be the one to tell you this about your life calling, but there’s a good chance you’re sinning right now and don’t even know it.
I’m not saying you’re checking your inbox or browsing the blogosphere while adjusting your ski mask for the next bank heist. If you are, good luck with that. I’m not even suggesting that you’re about to take yet another swig from that flask of Jim Beam you’ve got stashed under your desk.
I’m talking about the sins I struggle with most. The ones we never hear about. Not the things we do wrong, but the stuff we leave out.
Theologians say sin can take two different forms: “the sins of omission” and the “sins of commission.” Clever, but still using multi-syllabic words (oops, there’s another one). I’ve used a more basic definition for sin when teaching our kids: Doing the don’ts and don’ting the dos. Maybe that wasn’t much clearer for you, but the kids get it.
Sometimes the most serious sins are the things we know we should do, but don’t.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:17)
The Good I Could Be Doing
As I shared recently in this post at Patheos, my wife and I visited the Baja Peninsula of Mexico a few years ago on a short-term missions effort. One night, we trekked up into the mountains to a migrant worker camp in the middle of nowhere. We passed out clothing and Bibles, fed them hot dogs and nachos, and shared a film about Jesus.
Afterwards, as I sat under that wide and starry Mexican sky, I felt terrible. I knew I would leave and return home. They would still be trapped in a socialistic and corrupt political system tomorrow with only a used shirt and a few lingering crumbs of nachos to show for it.
Jeff Goins would say I had been wrecked. That’s not to say we shouldn’t do good in the short-term:
Love does not calculate that way. The good Samaritan did not say, “One interrupted day will make very little difference in the problem of chronic violence in this region.” He saw this one need and did something. ~ John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
Ideas Have Consequences.
The people living in poverty in that migrant worker camp — and countless millions of others — live in a prison made by ideas. As I sat alone with my thoughts that night, I had an epiphany. If I could use my gifts as a thinker and communicator to impact cultures, but choose not to do so — what is that?
If I know I can help someone, perhaps millions of someones, by putting my God-given strengths of ideation and my passion for connecting stuff to work, I can do good. If I don’t do it, I may be sinning and not even know it.
Am I Alone?
But I’m likely not the only one sinning unawares by doing nothing. What about you?
Search me, O God, and know my heart. (Ps. 139:23)
Where have you sensed the Spirit tugging you to act — while you’ve continued to sit. What strengths or talents are lying dormant in your desk drawer right next to that bottle of Jim Beam. Often our addictions help us conceal our true callings. And addictions don’t just come in the shape of a bottle. I think that, especially in ministry roles, we have a lot of people serving in the wrong places. They feel inwardly frustrated but don’t show it outwardly for fear of what others may think of their faith. Until the fallout is all over the headlines and everyone wonders how it could have happened.
If you’re like me, you have plenty of reasons to remain imprisoned in inactivity. And there will always be more, readily available to justify our fearful disobedience. Some might even play The Salvation Box card and claim that none of the rest of life matters as long as we’ve got our conversion locked up securely. They might say we should just be happy to be serving at all so shut up and sit down. But we need to speak the truth to ourselves. We need to call it what it is: sin.
Only One You
Maybe it’s time you stopped sinning and started using the gifts God has given you to help others. There’s only one you. Maybe it’s time you chose to truly live by what you say you believe. Maybe that’s what faith is all about — living it outside The Salvation Box. And without faith — well, you can forget about being pleasing to your Creator.
Of course, it might take walking with a faith beyond your wildest imaginations and fears. But that’s OK. That’s where God hangs out.
See you there.
The promises of God should shatter fear. ~ John Piper
What dreams has God put in your heart that you would love to pursue if only you could find a way? What one thing is stopping you from answering the call? Share a comment to help us all grow with abundant faith.