Every Time We Stumble and Sin, Rise Back Up

Every Time We Stumble and Sin, Rise Back Up November 11, 2020

OpenClipart-Vectors: Ballet Dance Fall and Rise Back Up /pixabay

The message of Christ is the message of hope. He brought us good news: God loves the world. He wants to share himself and his love with the world. Sin takes us away from God, but God is willing to forgive us, to work with us, to help us so that sin does not have the last word. Sin, because it takes us away from God, the source and foundation of our being, leads to death. Sin is nihilistic and destructive. It has no real nature of its own, but rather, it is what corrupts and destroys nature. God, by becoming man, allowed the effects of sin to come upon him; he allowed himself to be taken to the cross and die so that he could show us the full impact of sin. He did not sin himself, but in his solidarity with us, he took on the sin of the world, allowed it to takes its hold upon him and do all that it could do to him. But his resurrection shows us that the dominion of sin is limited, and God is greater – that God is able to restore all that sin has damaged or destroyed and make it better than before. Jesus rose in glory, and we, too, can rise with him and partake of that glory.

“The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made” (Ps. 145:9 RSV). Every time we sin, we harm ourselves. Every time we sin, we fall down and stumble. Every time we sin, we find ourselves turning away from God, so that we become more and more attached to ourselves and the limits contained within our being. Each time we sin, we find those limits become less and less, as sin destroys our potentiality. Nonetheless, God’s grace is greater than our sin, and if we repent, if we turn ourselves once again over to him, he can and will take us back to him. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1Jn. 1:9 RSV). He can undo the damage of sin, so that whatever potentiality we have lost due to our own actions, whatever self-harm we have caused, can be restored to us by grace, even as that grace then allows us to transcend ourselves, to receive a greater potentiality than what we first had even  without sin.

Despite how much we sin, despite how much it has weakened us and leads us to more sin, we must never despair. We can rise back up. We must never think sin has the final word over our lives. Every time we stumble, every time we give in to some inordinate passion, we must not think we are lost. God loves us and no matter what we have done, God is willing to forgive us and give us his grace so that we can once again rise up and follow after him. Thus Paschasius of Dumium, relating what he had heard concerning Abba Sisoius, wrote:

When a certain brother frequently used these words to Abbot Sisoius: “What shall I do father, for I have fallen?,’ he answered: “Arise.” And he arose. And again, he claimed that he had fallen.  The old man said: “Arise again.” When the brother kept saying frequently that he had fallen, the old man would use the same words, exclaiming: “Don’t stop getting up, son.” The brother asked him: “Father, explain how far I can arise.” The old man said: “The extent of your fall depends on whether you are found in good works or in bad. For in whatever work a man is found, so he shall be judged.” [1]

If we sin, if we fall down, we should just repent and rise back up, just as if we stumbled and tripped while walking, we get up and continue walking. Every time we tumble, God freely gives us his grace so that we can get back up. But we must be sure that we do get up.  Once we sin, we must not let that take us down so that we stay down, thinking there is nothing which can be done. We should consider what we have done, see how and why we should have done better, so that we can be sorry for what we have done. Once we are sorry, we can have remorse, and rise up, so that we can once again try to move forward and do what is good and right. Every time we stumble, every time we sin, God is willing to forgive us, give us his help, and encourage us to once again try do what is good and true.

If we have difficulties, if we have a bad habit which is difficult to overcome, God understands. He is willing to forgive us each time we stumble so long as we realize it is wrong and we try to struggle to overcome such bad habits. But we need to do more than that. We need to focus more on the good which we can do, the good which we already do, and grow stronger in that good, in whatever virtues are associated with that good. If we do, then such good will help strengthen us in virtue and through such virtue, we will slowly see our own bad habits overcome. Thus, it is not just our sins, but what we do with grace which matters. God will pick us up every time we stumble, helping us arise, but we must not use that to presume we need do nothing ourselves. We should do whatever good which we can do. Paul, therefore, appeals to us, once we have taken the mercy of God, we need to do what we can to conform ourselves to his will, to offer ourselves to him and follow after him, doing what is good:

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:1-2 RSV).

The Good News is that God’s love is greater than all our sin. God is willing to forgive all our infidelity. He will help us rise up and follow after him. But we must be willing to follow after him. He can and will forgive us, but we must not take his offer to help us as some sort of cheap grace, where God does everything for us and expects nothing in return. He loves us, and so he expects us to love him back. He loves us and so he expects us to react in love. He loves all of us, and so he expects us to love all, because he loves all. If we love God, and love all because of our love for God, then we will look to the world in the eyes of love, see all things under the light of love, and treat it and deal with it as a lover does their beloved. Then truly, acting out in pure love, we will have risen up fully and when God sees us, he will see that love, and reward us for that love.

[1] Paschasius of Dumium, “Questions and Answers of the Greek Fathers” in Iberian Fathers. Volume 1. Martin of Braga, Paschasius of Dumium, and Leander of Seville. Trans. Claude W. Barlow (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1969), 132.


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