sin and the transcendent
I took my youngest daughter out for a frozen custard from Rita's Ice this week. It was a renewed effort on my part to offer each child "daddy time," which I have done on and off for years. In the past, it used to be as simple as building something together. Nowadays, I take them out. I asked my little girl, who is now 10 about her future and about the daily Bible reading we've been doing. She proceeded to stump me with a Bible question. We are reading through the Old Testament together and we finished Isaiah last month. She wanted to know what Isaiah meant that all our good deeds are filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6. I never thought about it before. I just accepted it. So I took a swing. I told her that none of our deeds are done with purely unselfish motivations. We can't get ourselves out of any choice we make. Selfishness corrupts every action we make. She shrugged at my answer. Thanks for trying, dad.
I've been thinking about self-denial today. Many religions advocate some degree of it. Even Christ calls his followers to deny themselves, Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23. Indulgence is an attempt at transcendence. And Jesus says it's a dead end. But denial itself is also a dead end. Because all other transcendence is temporal. Only Jesus offers a way to transcend death. Jesus requires a self-denial and a following of him. Only he has the way to a life after the grave. He demonstrated this in his own resurrection.
I was thinking about the 10 commandments and transcendence. God insists on a correct understanding of his priority and unity. Idolatry is an attempt to transcend with an improper form of God a, b, c, d, e, f. Misusing God's name is misrepresenting him. Sabbath skipping is denying God room to provide a, b, c, d, e, which misrepresents Him. Dishonoring our parents dishonors God, our ultimate parent. Murder, adultery, theft, perjury, lust, are all quick and dirty methods of indulgence to transcend our difficulties. Most religions cover the same ground for the last 5 or 6. But denying ourselves those things without Christ, bring a transcendence that won't cross over after death to eternal life. They help us get along with each other in the neighborhood, civilizing us, but it only takes one sociopath, who does not care if the rest of us believe in the rules, to destroy the community. If one of those behaviors is murder, then where is one who dies without Christ? Hell, a place Jesus describes as filled with darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth, Luke 13:28. Asceticism alone cannot transcend death. Indulgence now does not make the suffering of hell later any better. Sociopaths arise in any milieu religious or non-religious. But only Jesus provides hope.
Eating frozen custard with my youngest daughter and trying to answer her hard questions was an indulgence for me. I hope it was for her as well. I told her, only the righteousness of Jesus is good enough for God. That's why everything else is like a dirty rag.