The thing that has so often surprised me in my life is just how greatly I veer towards doing the wrong thing; how, even when I know absolutely that to do the right thing is not only the best way, but sometimes also the easiest way, I still tend to heartily entertain the darker path. I take a lot of comfort from Scriptures analysis that this is the lot for humankind generally. Paul's lament for himself in Romans 7 has meant more to me that some of the profound theology surrounding that chapter. So, it never greatly bothers me when those like Mother Teresa or Jean Vanier are found to be imperfect, it just makes them to be human to me and so more accessible. Paul here uses a shooting term in the Greek word for sin. When a man shot an arrow he might miss the target and sin, Paul reminds us, is the failure to hit the target of life. Yes, that may be played out in thousands of different ways, but the end result is a potentially wasted life, whether it is clothed in the robes of respectability or not. A great definition of sin is that it is the failure to be what we ought to be and could be. Sin destroys innocence. Everything we have ever done or have seen or heard is buried deep inside us. Everything that has ever been done against us remains within and causes damage to us as adults. Sin leaves a permanent effect on people. I watched a documentary a few months ago about the Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball, who was a serial abuser. The trail of destruction he left in his wake was appalling-suicides, mental breakdown, wrecked relationships. It brought to my mind the passage in the Bible where Jesus declares: ''It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin.'' It made me so angry and wanting to weep for those young men whose innocence had been irretrievably destroyed. So, what are the characteristics of a life lived without Jesus Christ? It is a life lived consistent with just about everyone else. Christianity demands forgiveness, but that is seen as being weak; Christianity demands love for even enemies, but revenge is sought on those who oppose you; it is characterized by disobedience and run by desire. All of us have weak spots. We may not be troubled by the desire to get drunk regularly, but we may have great pride in our ambition or be wrecked by envy of others. Christianity's view of mankind is extremely sceptical, but at the same time extremely idealistic. We know what we should be and how far we have fallen, but in Christ we can know healing, acceptance, forgiveness, new life!
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