Have you ever complained “The Devil made me do it?” We offer it as an excuse when we sin. The “Enemy” got the better of us.
But that excuse casts Jesus’ promise in a different light. What did he really mean when he spoke of “dying for the forgiveness of sin?”
The common reading is that Jesus was offering forgiveness from violations of the Mosaic Law. The Law could carry terrible consequences. While asserting the stability of the Mosaic covenant (“not one jot or tittle will change”), Jesus claimed the authority to fulfill it and establish a new covenant. In the case of the adulterous woman and in many healings, He set himself against those consequences. The parable of the shrewd servant advises the Temple Priests to water down the price of redemption. The parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates how the Law divides us from Love, and the sinful Prodigal is held dearer than the son who stayed home.
Jesus’ attitude toward the Law is complex and paradoxical. Would that really be what He meant by “sin?”
One clue comes from Genesis. The Most High warns Cain: “Sin crouches at your door. It wants to have you, but you must master it.” Sin is spoken of as though a personification, and Cain is not punished for his transgression but sent away to wrestle with his weakness.
And then we have the book of Job. The father of lies asserts that the Covenant is hollow, because the people do not confront the sorrows of the world. To prove the merit of the Father’s course, Job is crushed with the weight of those sorrows, but holds fast. Brought to the edge of renunciation by polytheistic opportunism, Job is reminded of the responsibilities held by the Most High: “Does your voice thunder like mine? Does your arm stretch across the sky?” Intervention in one place carries consequences in another. Job remembers the gifts of Love, gifts seen nowhere else in the world, and endures in his hope.
Satan understands. Here is a creature that understands the value of love. Once having tasted it, we remain firm in our longing.
But Satan, allowed mastery of material existence, resists. He is the exemplar of the Prodigal. He sets out to convince us that we are unworthy of Love.
Looking at the span of religious history, that is the great bane. It is to teach that God passes judgment upon us. No, Satan has convinced us to pass judgment upon ourselves. Peter, following the Miracle of the Catch, crouches down in the boat: “Lord, get away from me, for I am a sinful man.” As though darkness could cast out the light.
Jesus overcame Satan’s lie. He died for the forgiveness of Sin itself. That begins by breaking our conviction in our own unworthiness. We sin, and every one of us that is redeemed carries away a spirit captive to Satan’s dominion. We are not the fly in the ointment of Creation. We are the ointment itself.
As Christians, purity is not our lot. It is to confront the darkness of the world, light it with Love, and redeem Creation.
If you sin, do not despair. Pray, reflect, and allow the Holy Spirit to show you a different course. Allow yourself to be used as the instrument of Sin’s education. As was the Prodigal, be the method of Sin’s redemption, and a Joy to Heaven.