We all have one. The question is whether we’re humble enough to name it. For me, it’s sexual licentiousness. There are many other coins in my purse, but this one, undoubtedly, has been the one that has led me to pause, play, rewind, fast forward, and press the stop buttons in my obedience to God.
If you’re already feeling “blessed” because sexual immorality isn’t a sin you live with, then may I suggest self righteousness may be your token sin? Or perhaps, pride is. Truth be told, the sin of pride is at the heart of all sin. Idolatry, adultery, murder, self righteousness, covetousness, and the nearly infinite list could go on of sins we commit when we’re choosing to put our self centered desires above the care for others and, ultimately, above God.
Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Immediately following is a commandment to love your neighbors as yourselves (Mark 12:29-31). When we sin by breaking either of these two commands, it is our pride that generally initiates it. We all have different histories, different moral compasses, different world views, different circumstances, but the excuses we make to defend our actions when seeking reconciliation with our Creator just won’t do.
Even when you feel justified for cheating on your spouse because of the way they treat you, or remaining resentful against someone who’s wronged you, or constantly keeping track of how well you’ve lived out your Christian walk in comparison to others, it is your actions and reactions that you’re accountable for. As important as fellowship in a community with other Christians is, our sins are all on us, individually. The blame game began in the garden of Eden and permeates much of life still today. I sometimes wonder if God tires of hearing our excuses for why we choose sin instead of Him.
We believe our God is sovereign, so your sins, token and all, are not shameful surprises to Him. He knew, and always knows, what choices you have and will make. It’s futile to hide from Him, fearing discipline or judgment from man or even afraid to lose that sin that has been with you for so long it’s become an odd sort of comfortable companion. Oftentimes, we can become so engrossed in our sin that our hearts become hardened and our consciences seared to the point where we cannot and will not see it for what it is. Those that suffer from debilitating sins of the mind, such as worry, anxiety, and depression can become numb to the fact this is also a sin issue, where at the root lies our lack of trust in God.
If it is His will and our desires become aligned with it, grace abounds and the Holy Spirit can begin to work in us, sometimes overnight, but many times over years, shining light into the darkness. However, that’s not the experience that we should expect without exposing our sin openly before God and, as much as possible, to others it has affected. And like children, live with the consequences. Sometimes He will free us from its bondage, but we should also be open to what He is trying to teach us through the struggle and find a way to honor Him regardless.
Paul asked the Lord three times to remove the thorn from his flesh, but God declared that it shall remain. His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). We aren’t told whether it was a physical or psychological reminder of his weakness, but there was a reason God denied Paul in his repeated requests to remove it. The context suggests that Paul was a candidate for pride, bent towards bragging about his experiences with God. Being aware of this weakness kept him in check, perhaps, to focus his boasting on God.
In time, as God softens our hearts to see the gravity of our sin, our token sins can bring us to a level of despair. We are overcome with shame and guilt over the choices we’ve made and are still making. How long do you stay there though, paralyzed by fear? What and who are you afraid of? Fear of failure when we delve in again after willing ourselves into behaving, not ever getting it right as hard as we try, disappointment of others, judgment by others, or worse, fear of God’s condemnation. Romans 8:1 squashes that last fear. As does Isaiah 53:4-6, where God speaks through the prophet of the coming Christ redeeming us of our iniquities.
Although a handy verse isn’t going to make those deeply rooted feelings disappear, it’s all but guaranteed that steady reading and learning from and about God’s Word, with discernment and increasing wisdom, brings respite. Because when we’re engrossed in Him, it changes our perspective on everything. Even in the midst of sometimes consequential suffering, which could very well be His loving discipline, our eyes are opened and we become teachable through His Word.
As much as I’ve poured over my token sin, on the roller coaster of indulgence and repentance, I can see how it has played a part in the relational aspect of life. Both vertically, where I stand before God, and horizontally, where I stand amongst man. In both, I’m finding my place by searching for how I can love God with more of my heart, my mind, my soul, my strength, and genuinely love my neighbor as myself, with a glorious dose of humility always beside me.