Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Balanced View of Sin

by Jill Jackson

For those who grew up in a “Christ-less Christian home,” the first step on the road of the better way takes place when they acquire a balanced view of sin. They may not even realize their view of sin is off-kilter. They may not understand how this baggage of tainted perspective hinders them from setting their baggage down and walking away, but it does.

One may have lived a lifetime watching hypocrisy at its best. As we discussed in the previous article, there is much silent suffering . . . shame, fear, brokenness, and loneliness. Along with those wounds there is anger—for the suffering or abuse they endured, for the home they should have had, for the way others believed their home was a positive spiritual environment, and perhaps for being let down the most by the persons they should have been able to value the most. Many may struggle with a desire for justice. Justice, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But when born out of anger, the desired outcome may remain out of reach, leaving one still holding that heavy baggage. Blatant transgressors need to be exposed for what they are, but without having a balanced view of sin, one could do so for all the wrong reasons. Consider the following truths with me with regard to sin and a desire for vindication.

First, each of us bear the burden of sin. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Perhaps some parents have no regard for God and the transgressions they commit against him. Maybe some are just weak and find themselves succumbing to temptation repeatedly. Whatever the reason, those who grew up in a "Christ-less Christian home" must be objective enough to recognize they too, sin and are in need of the blood of Christ. It’s easy to fall into the trap of she is a greater sinner than me mentality, but Jesus taught against this mindset in John 8:1-11. The scribes and Pharisees brought him a woman, whom had been caught in adultery, desiring to stone her. After writing something on the ground, Christ told those seeking justice, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v.7). Some children may feel so wronged by their parents. They may be perfectly right and just for feeling that way, but they must be balanced enough to see that they too are imperfect and transgress against God.

Second, each of us must forgive to be forgiven (Luke 6:37). Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It’s impossible to erase the memories stored within our minds, but forgiving means letting go of the resentment. It’s the proactive effort of releasing the anger or ill will attached to the hurt committed against you. Withholding forgiveness will cause grudges to grow like a cancer within. It's toxic to one’s well being mentally, physically and spiritually. Failing to forgive parents does nothing to hurt them, but in reality prevents the child from receiving God’s forgiveness. One with a balanced view of sin can see objectively the pain and anger felt for one’s parents is not worth the depriving of her own eternity.

Third, those whose parents sin against them does not give them a license to rebel and live a sinful lifestyle. Some feel entitled to rebel and do what they want because they lived through the school of hard knocks. Experiencing wrong from the hand of others does not entitle one to “enjoy the pleasures of sin” now, at the expense of righteousness, without being accountable for the consequences.

I was once talking to someone who was willfully engaging in sinful activities. I was trying to get him to turn away from these behaviors and come back to God's ways. He began running through his long list of those who had (in his mind) wronged him. He wanted me to see these sins of others (his opinion, not mine) as justification for his behavior. I interrupted him to ask one question. What does what ________ did to you have to do with what you are currently doing? Sin is personal. We are each responsible for our actions (Deuteronomy 24:16). Others sinning against us does not give us a free pass to turn around and sin. One with a balanced view of sin recognizes growing up in a home where God was not acknowledged, where Christianity was abused, where mistreatment abounded does not make one less accountable for her choices.

Fourth, sin always has the same outcome. Can pleasure be found in sin? Certainly. Otherwise what would be tempting about it? But those pleasures come at a cost that's always the same. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). It draws us away for his truth, from those in his body, from clear spiritual perspective, and most of all, sin puts our souls in jeopardy. "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). No one walks away from sin unscathed. Even if it appears that your parents are not suffering for their sins—and perhaps at this very moment they aren't—but eventually, if unrepentant of, they will suffer. The angry individual looks forward to the day, but the one with a balanced view of sin fears the day, because she recognizes eternity is sealed at the time of death! The experience of living in a “Christ-less Christian home” can create an unhealthy concentration on the sins of others (namely parents) to the point that it blinds one to her own transgressions. It can create a hard, unforgiving heart that can prevent one from receiving forgiveness for her own sins. It can cause one to believe she’s entitled to a leeway she’s not. Enduring this homelife can delude one to the outcome of sin!

Work to acquire a balanced view of sin. Strive to set your baggage down and walk the “road of a better way.” Let go of your hurt and anger, knowing God knows the tears and griefs of your heart (Psalm 56:8). Leave your desire for justice and validation in his hands. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Recommended Reading

Jackson, Jason. Stronger Than Ever: Heavenly Advice for Earthly Life (True stories of real people who overcame adversity and are stronger because of the power of Christ.). 2008. Stockton, CA: Christian Courier Publications. 

Jackson, Wayne. Why Do Good People Do Bad Things.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Coping With Baggage

by Jill Jackson

Everyone has baggage. There’s the baggage of regret—things we wish we would have done differently or things we wish we hadn’t done all together. There’s the baggage of guilt that often accompanies regret for the pain we caused others or for the way we transgressed against God. There’s also the baggage of hurtful experiences—sometimes self-inflicted, others when we were purely victims.
Children who grew up in “Christ-less Christian homes” likely endured many hurtful circumstances over which they had no control. They lived in a home that others thought was a good Christian home, but in reality their home failed to be different from those in the world . . . or was even worse than a worldly home. Those who experienced a home like this often have a unique set of baggage.

The Baggage of Silent Suffering

Those reared in such homes often suffer in silence—from shame, fear or from being so broken down they believe no one cares. These homes are often filled with lies and manipulation. Many times the church family is completely unaware of the hypocrisy in these homes, but the children within witness it on a daily basis. There is legitimate hurt that accompanies hearing people say one thing and seeing them do another.
It can be a very lonely existence when bearing such burdens alone. Many of these children adapt to this isolation and become self-sufficient in ways one never should be. Leery and untrusting of others, unable to appreciate the bond between those in Christ, they may struggle to form relationships as they age. They may forever deprive themselves of the strength, encouragement and spiritual wisdom from their Christian family (1 Thessalonians 5:14, Hebrews 10:24). Going it alone—even suffering alone—has become a more comfortable existence than being with those who share the common ultimate goal of getting to heaven, but this is not what God had in mind for his family.

The Baggage of Tainted Perspective

We’re influenced and molded by the things we see and do over and over. Our patterns (chosen by us or chosen for us) and habits become our normalcy whether the behaviors are good and normal, or not.
I am a NASM certified (National Academy of Sports Medicine) CPT, PES, and CES. I have logged over 2,000 hours as a personal trainer. When it comes to physical training there’s something we call muscle memory. When a particular movement is repeated over and over, the body becomes so familiar with the motion, that eventually it’s performed without any thought. The bad news is, you can actually build muscle memory when doing something the wrong way! Take for example the squat. When doing a squat, one aspect of proper body mechanics is to push your weight into the heels of you feet. Many times I see people doing squats, and every time they sink down, their heels pop up. Not good! Very bad for the knees, but the abnormal way of doing squats has become what feels normal because of muscle memory. The good news is the body can be retrained. You can correct the movement and build a new muscle memory. The difficult part is that for a while, the correct way of doing things will feel very abnormal.
So it is with our life experiences. For Christians who grew up in “Christ-less Christian homes,” there’s most often the baggage of a tainted perspective. They have abnormal “muscle memory.” What they have grown up seeing from their parent(s) is their normal, despite how dysfunctional or hypocritical they may have been. Perhaps they suffer from the perception that all Christians are like their parent(s): manipulative, deceivers, liars, blatant sinners who in reality make no real effort to do what is right. Their perspective can become very jaded when it comes to Christianity. Or maybe their perspective is that their home was “normal” and they fall into a vicious cycle of repeating the same destructive behaviors they endured. If not corrected, this tainted perspective can create problems that could plague future family generations.
The Baggage of Rebellion
As a result of the baggage of silent suffering and tainted perspective, the baggage of rebellion is often born. Perhaps the word disgust doesn’t even begin to describe what these children feel for the disgraceful behavior they saw from the grown-ups in their home. Often the parent/child relationship is so fractured that even grown children are faced with the temptation to rebel against God. There can be a psychological war within the hearts of these children. Sometimes their perception can become so distorted, they fail to be able to recognize that some of what their parents taught them with regard to the Scriptures was good and right. In this confused state, pleasing God is sometimes seen as pleasing their parents—the last people they care to emulate. This may seem to others like no big deal, but in their shoes it can be huge—especially when dealing with unbalanced parents.
This inability to separate serving God from the behavior within the home makes these children vulnerable to the temptation of rebelling against God’s ways. The reality is these children could lose their souls as a result of this power struggle, which really reflects more of a hostility to the parent, than a hostility to God. But rebellion against God, for any reason, is still rebellion, which is sin. It’s quite tragic that some, after suffering and enduring a “Christ-less Christian home,” break free and leave the nest only to continue to be a prisoner of the past and destroy the future that awaits.
This baggage is real and destructive. It’s a painful weight that can prevent people from living the Christian life the way God intended, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a better way, and perhaps the first step on the road of that better way is acquiring a balanced view of sin. Will the pursuit of this “better way” cause all the painful memories to vanish? No, but perhaps it will help those suffering to see they’re not required to carry the baggage they have with them in the future (Philippians 3:13-14). And the more distance one travels from the baggage, the brighter the future shines. Though this life will not be without burdens and suffering, we should all take heart and remember there is a peace in the fellowship we have with Christ (John 16:33). “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

Recommended Reading
Jackson, Jason. A Prayer of the Afflicted—A Study of Psalm 102.
Jackson, Wayne. Promises From God For Troubled Souls.
Jackson, Wayne. How Do I Deal With Conflicting Emotions?
Picture Copyright: <a href=''>_ella_ / 123RF Stock Photo</a>