I had a weird dream last night that sent my mind wandering as I got ready for work this morning. I don’t remember all of the details of the dream – I seldom do – but I remember the vague feeling that the people who were around me in the dream were evil … not just mistaken or bent … but actually evil. They weren’t doing anything violent or wicked in the dream, there was just a sense that they were deep down very evil.
Lately I’ve been reading several of C.S. Lewis’ books and essays and I can see how his constantly prevailing theme of the utter depravity of man, framed against the glorious backdrop of God’s righteousness could have metastasized into a vague dream about evil in human form. But when I woke up and started mulling things over, I started to think about how there is a fundamental difference between the life of licentiousness and the life of depravity.
Now stay with me on this one, and please feel free to weigh in because I’m not set on these thoughts and would welcome discussion.
My initial thinking has always been that wrong is wrong (which it most certainly is … I haven’t changed my view on that one iota), but there is a difference in the person who commits wrong. For instance, even the most squishy, freedom-advocating, grace-rolling Christian is going to say that there is a difference between a Christian person and a non-Christian person. If a Christian doesn’t say that then ask him, “Where then is the value in Christ? Is Christ then just another ‘great teacher’?” If the Christian then answers in the affirmative then he doesn’t truly understand Christ at all, nor does he understand the true message of the cross.
The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian comes down to a fundamental belief that 1) there is a moral standard, 2) the moral standard is not created by man nor does it fluctuate according to human whim, and 3) the moral standard was created by God and communicated through His Son and His Spirit. But this difference, massive as it is, doesn’t negate the affect of sin or the desire to sin by either person (the Christian or the non-). Both sin through omission and commission. Both sin intentionally and unintentionally. But in one case the sin is not counted in the final judgment and in the other case the sin is the only thing seen.
So if there is such a glaring difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, can there be differences (however subtle) between different types of Christian and different types of non-? In the case of the Christian, my answer would be a simple no. For after all, isn’t there ‘neither Jew nor gentile, slave nor free, male nor female’ (Gal 3:28) within Christ? But in the case of the non-Christian many things divide. The main one I want to deal with here is that there is a difference in the TYPE of sin in which each one engages. I wouldn’t argue that there is a difference in sin in and of itself – sin is sin. Sin, no matter how big or small, if it goes un-healed, un-redeemed, un-Christ-ed (if I may create a new word), it separates us from God. But I would argue that there is a difference in the type of sin based on the state of the sinner.
As a foundation for this thought, I mulled the idea of the “unforgivable sin” – the only sin that the Bible says God doesn’t (indeed can’t) forgive – the “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.” The reason this is important for this talk is that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not a particular word spoken, nor is it even one, single action taken. It is a conscious rejection of the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is a conscious ejection of God from the human life. It is a conscious removal of all spiritual leading, thinking and discipline. God, in His infinite wisdom and justice, gave free will to all people and He responds with a “Let it be so done” to every heart that spurns His Spirit’s tugging and pricking through the conscience, the things seen around us and through His word. For God to reverse the decision of a hard heart is to no longer be Himself … God is constant and just. To reverse the decision of a hard heart is to remove free will … God doesn’t want automatons.
Therefore, if the unforgivable sin establishes the point of no return for a soul, could not the other category of non-Christian be everyone else?
And if we begin separating the blasphemers from the un-redeemed sinners, we start to get a better idea of what the type of sin is in which each engages. If a man finds himself standing in an abandoned parking lot, looking at a lost wallet on the ground, he might do one of two things: 1) pick up the wallet, look for the identification of the person who lost it and then do everything he can to return the wallet to that person, or 2) keep the money, wallet and any other trinkets for himself. We would say that the Christian would certainly be bound by his view of life through his Christ-like lenses to do the former. We would also say that the non-Christian might be inclined to do the same, simply based on a dim, but still present moral light within them (call it the conscience or whatever … it’s there). But we would also say that the second option is possible for that non-Christian. It may simply be the result of the non-Christian’s laziness – having intended to return it but never made the time – or it might be due to lack of success in finding the owner within a personally-defined window of time for return. But it might also be that the non-Christian, regardless of the ability to determine to whom it belongs or the simplicity of returning it, decides that it is tough luck for the loser and finder’s-keeper’s for himself – without ever having a degree of inclination to look for the real owner at all.
This may be an imperfect analogy, but it is close to what I’m trying to establish. An un-redeemed, but non-blaspheming sinner commits himself to licentiousness – a lifestyle of satisfying temporal, fleshly lusts OR he is simply a non-reflective, easily-duped spiritual novice. While this licentious sinner is certainly not living according to God, he has not removed the little bit of God that still remains within him.
Conversely, if the non-Christian really has moved to the point where no pin-prick of conscience attacks him for taking something which is not his, he has moved beyond the point of being simply a sinner in need of redemption and has moved into that netherworld of the walking hopeless. The blasphemer has now opened himself up to the full depravity of Satan and his hordes. He sheds the slight spiritual protection present from the vestige of Godliness bestowed upon him through his being made in the image of the immortal God. He suddenly becomes a devil himself – not in the sense of the spiritual beings called devils or demons – but equal with them in their depravity, indeed equal with them in their sin of rejection and blasphemy.
I want to be perfectly clear here though. We, as Christians, are not to go around examining people in order to determine if they are in the licentious or blasphemous category. If they don’t know Christ, that is enough to bring a Christian to share and to love. What this conversation is meant to do for the Christian though, is to bring a little bit of understanding to why things are the way they are in this realm. Sin has blanketed the entire world … it just lies a little thicker in some places than in others. And while there are many shining lights and cities on a hill, there are just as many darkened, pitch-black lives who seek to make everyone they meet as depraved and desperate as they are.
With our finite minds we might miss many of the licentious for the depraved, but if we are open to God’s Spirit leading in the inner man, we may also see many opportunities among the currently damned.
May God shine His light into every crevice of our own lives which still reek of the effects of sin and make us new day by day.