No Trespassing

Summer is nearly over (though the thermometers tell it differently), and soon many young people will be shuffling off to their neighborhood schools.  When I myself was very young, I too shuffled the same, leaving behind the happy days of vacation and making my way to Harris Elementary School.  Harris was a small school (named after someone whose last name, I believe, was “Harris”) about a block away from our yellow house on Tamarack Drive, in Fort Wayne.  The school was very nearly on the exact opposite side of a block, so that I could either walk around the block by way of sidewalks and streets, or I could cut through the yards of two houses which were situated back-to-back and pop out across the street from school.

I confess, I trespassed.  But I did so in what I believed a very clever way.  I would walk between the houses, following what I imagined to be the property lines, so that if any one of the four neighbors whose boundaries I skirted were to find offense, I could always claim that I was actually on the other fellow’s land.  Sad, I know.  So much for Luther’s axiom about “sinning boldly.”

Of course, most of those neighbors probably smiled and chuckled to see the skinny kid tread so carefully around their yards, and weren’t bothered at all by my trespass. But now that I’ve grown up, I find it so easy to continue trespassing just the same way – always looking for the route which gives the maximum allowance for excuses and avoidance.

I mentioned a quotation by Martin Luther above, I wonder if you’ve heard it.  The original statement he expressed in Latin, like a good little theologian: Pecca fortiter, sed fortius fide et gaude in Christo.  I know, most of us haven’t studied Latin (which is rather unfortunate), but looking through those words you might recognize a few of them by their English counterparts: “fortitude,” “fidelity,” “gaudy.”  And if you know a bit of Spanish, you might recall that pecado is “sin.”  Translated, the entire phrase means “Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Jesus Christ more boldly still.”

I have a tendency to tiptoe around my sin – still trespassing, but attempting to do so lightly enough that I might convince myself it wasn’t so bad after all, that it isn’t worthy of confession to the Father or Christian brothers and sisters.  This is self-deceit; there are no such sins.

For Luther to say “sin boldly” is in no way to condone sinning (think “shall we go on sinning that grace may abound? certainly not!”).  But he is challenging us that there are no minor sins which float beneath the surface and need no confession.  Here’s how Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the old German theologian, explains Luther’s proclamation:

“As Luther saw it, ‘sin boldly’ did not happen to be a fundamental acknowledgement of his disobedient life; it was the gospel of the grace of God before which we are always and in every circumstance sinners.  Yet that grace seeks us and justifies us, sinners though we are.  Take courage and confess your sin, says Luther, do not try to run away from it, but believe more boldly still.”

Our lives, now hidden with Christ in God, ought to be known by obedience to the commands of Christ, but the sum of things, after all our obedience mixed with failing, is that we can rejoice in Christ more boldly still, for He has removed the sin from us.  No need to skirt the issue, no need to collect excuses.  No more walking the edges, no more hoping to get by.  Definitely no need to hide our sins from Him.

1 John 1:8 – 2:2
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

When I skirt around my sin, walking the property line in order to muddle the plain fact of wickedness, I am attempting to make a liar out of God.  He will have none of that.  But when I stand in utter helplessness and confess it all to Him, I am letting the sin drive me through confession to the only One who can – and will – make me clean again.  And, as Luther says, I can praise the Savior more boldly still, for at the end of it all there is His grace.

David Ritterbush is a nobody. He believes Christ and occasionally forgets. David has volunteered with Transform Student Ministry since 2006, and happened to meet his wife there.




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