Sin is deafening. Its neon voice makes it difficult sometimes to hear the whispers of God.
~Jonathan Acuff, author/site owner of “Stuff Christians Like”
Sin is indeed deafening. In fact, we might wonder whether it defines more of the Christian construct than we like to think. As I examine the rules by which we live, and how we challenge them, it strikes me that the difficult part is the neon aspect.
Sin is great at not looking gritty. It’s great at looking polished, and even at looking like a neon sign pointing the way to the good Christian life. Most of all, sin loves it — we love it deep down, it feels so much more secure and confident — when we fall to relying on safety rules that supposedly make sure sin never gets close.
Sin is already close. It’s snuggled right up around the cockles of our hearts, embracing us and whispering sweet nothings of forgetfulness and innocent butterfly-chasing cuteness.
Wear your clothes a certain way. Treat single people with caution. Treat married people with further caution. Say only certain words, and not certain others. Think only certain thoughts. Quote certain verses a certain way.
And above all, gentlemen, do not get in an elevator which contains a woman standing there alone. (That is the secret to Billy Graham’s spiritual success, and incontrovertible proof that he is Extra Holy. And Extra Successful In Ministry. It all goes together.)
And especially if you’re a woman, be quiet and meek and do not poke fun at the legends of glory surrounding Our Hallowed Leaders.
Well, with things being a certain way, I guess I’m up a certain creek, because I couldn’t care less about the rules. Look, I come from a world painted neon. It doesn’t stand out to me quite the same way. It’s not startling or eye-catching. It ain’t cute. It’s glaringly familiar, grating to the nerves. It puts me on edge, and yet I go along with the flow more than I ever intended to, because if you don’t play by the List of Rules, you are engaging in Undocumented Behaviour, and that is the standard definition these days of the jargon-word “sin.”
But I swore I’d never be a church girl, and there are some things I can’t follow.
Do not divorce your abusive spouse, because the Rules List says God hates divorce. Do not neglect to spank your children soundly for any infractions which violate the Rules List either. Not really because of spanking; there are plenty of things they don’t get spanked for too. But they must learn the colour of neon and how to follow the blinking signs which point the way to Jesusland.
Really? Do we really think that way?
Thank God, in my circles we mostly don’t. My Love and I have managed, by the genuine grace of God, to accumulate friends over the years who do not dance to popular tunes, because that would be sinful. But I see it everywhere. It’s all over the things we write, the way we talk, our ideas of ministry programming and public relations. And nobody’s really deep-down happy with it. I guess because I come kind of doused in neon afterglow, I often find myself privy to quiet whispers in corners as people talk about hope. Real hope.
Real hope. Because we don’t really think that way. We just don’t know what else to do, when everything around us and everyone we count on seems to be swept along by the blinking signs.
So we struggle along bearing crosses made of plastic, feeling that God is whispering somewhere in the distance, and He’s so hard to hear. In fact, though, what if He’s shouting? What if the difference is that we use eyes to see, and ears to hear? And maybe we need to close our eyes more, shut out the clamouring that competes for our sheepish following. Maybe it’s a good idea to get off the freeway, stop and listen.
I guarantee there is a still, small voice that’s not so quiet at all, and its owner is documenting every moment. And the more we learn how to listen, the more that’s a truly sweet thing. Like the sound of the wind off the beaten trail, somewhere in a place where many waters flow; where the moments are worth collecting.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.