“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”—Luke 13:34
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.—1 Peter 2:11
Let’s talk about sin.
My oldest child is nearly 15, and she has been able to dress herself since sometime around age 3 or four, as have my other children. This means that Carey and I have spent over a decade telling our kids to put on shoes and a jacket before we leave the house. And to be clear, I’m not saying they forget to do this once in a while. I’m saying they resist doing it every day, multiple times a day, every time we go anywhere. And every time, they act like it’s the first time, like Mom and Dad have come up with some strange, arbitrary new rule to make their lives harder.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Do you have shoes on?”
“Oh yeah, shoes. No. Are sandals good enough?”
“No, it’s 30 degrees out and you’ll want to play outside with your cousins.”
(Rolls eyes). “Okay, fine. Now I’m ready.”
“Do you have a jacket?”
“Oh. No, but I don’t need one.”
“Yes you do.”
“No I don’t! It’s not that cold!”
“Please just bring a jacket.”
(Bigger eye roll and loud sigh). “Okay fine!”
Every. Single. Time. Sometimes they bring the jacket but refuse to wear it, just to make a point; sometimes, when it’s really cold, they’re sheepishly putting it on before we’re even out of the driveway. In Lincoln City, where we used to live, it rained a lot but never got very cold, and you could get away with just a sweatshirt much of the time. But here in Susanville, sometimes you really need a coat, and for some reason my children refuse to face that fact. So the battle goes on, day after day. Shoes? Again? Why? A jacket? Ugh! Why are parents so unreasonable?
Carey and I sometimes comment that parenthood must be God’s way of helping us appreciate what it’s like to be Him. Because despite what our children think, we have no desire to be the Jacket Police. We don’t enjoy the battle any more than they do. And, as unreasonable as they think we are, there is only one reason we continue to fight the battle: love. My children are my delight. Everything about them, right down to their fragile little toes, is precious to me. And as an adult, the bottom line is that I know more than they do. I can envision the road ahead. I’ve seen the weather forecast. I have a much better sense than they do of what they day will bring. So I warn them, and I make rules that seem restrictive and unnecessary to them, out of love.
And of course, so it is with God. It has become really unpopular to talk about sin anymore in our culture, and we have made “judgment” into a dirty word. People are so defensive, so sensitive to being judged, that they forget judgment can be a good thing. For example: when our kids go out into the world, we hope and pray they will exercise good judgment. We want them to discern good from bad, for their own safety. We want them to make judgments about the people and situations they come across, because if they don’t, bad things may happen to them.
So it is good news that God judges our sin. Judging is exactly what God should do, because His judgment is much better than ours. And his heart is not to restrict us, but to keep us safe. Jesus said he longed to gather His people together like a mother hen, with her chicks safely under her wings. God’s heart is to protect, to shield us from that which would harm us.
And sin harms us. The things God forbids are never arbitrary. He is not looking for ways to ruin our fun. He is looking out for the things that threaten our well-being. 1 Peter 2 says that sinful desires “wage war against our soul.” I wonder how many of us truly believe that? There are a lot of believers out there who seem to think of sin in terms of what they can get away with, as if God is the mean teacher and sin is like passing notes in class. But that is the wrong picture. God is the loving parent, God is the good doctor, and sin is like drugs or poison. Every time God says “don’t do that,” the rest of the sentence is “because you will regret it.”
Are there things in your life that are waging war against your soul? Are there things God has forbidden that you did anyway, because you thought His rules were silly and unfair, but now you find yourself shivering in the cold? If so, then for the love of God, stop being so stubborn and put your coat on. Obey Him. You can trust His judgment. Stop pretending you know better, and let Him wrap His wings around you. Every rule He has given us comes from a heart of love. If we obey what He says and trust Him to take good care of us, we will never regret it.