Face Fallen, Christ Risen
Three weeks ago I made a pretty hefty decision in my life about something we all take for granted: eating. Or more specifically, what I am eating. I have never held any type of regard as to what I was putting into my body. Maybe it was the smell of teen spirit that God placed on me when He conceived me, but I have always had a rebellious attitude to life, and that included eating. I wanted what tasted the best and did not really care of the consequences. Three weeks ago, I became a vegetarian. The reasons for this vary greatly but mostly has to do with a Biblical conviction I felt after doing a fair amount of research on where our food comes from. This was not a dietary choice or because of my love for animals (I actually have a weird relationship with animals that traditionally involves a very low care for them), but was an honest-to-God, “this does not feel right” conviction. James explains this conviction in James 4:17
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
This verse creates a very interesting discourse in my personal sin theology. The most thought that is ever given to sin is that of the Mosaic Law. The Ten Commandments is so beautiful in its clarity. “This is what you do. This is what you don’t do.” James, as he had a tendency to do in this short letter, throws a wrench in that. Read that last part again; James is actually suggesting that sin can be a personal idea that does not relate to anyone else. Imagine how radical that was to the Jews of the time that long held to the thoughtful clarity of Leviticus!
Now this idea is not as radical today and it’s something I have had a healthy amount of discussion about during my first year of college. Some people find a heavier conviction with smoking and drinking than others. That is something that is tough to swallow for someone like myself, who loves everything in black and white, but that is the way that God designed it! Our relationships with Him, are wholly opaque and painfully translucent at the same time.
While on this personal voyage to understand sin, God took me to another passage that is early in sin’s history: Cain. The sons of Adam, Cain and Abel, both given different trades, bring an offering to God. Cain's did not offer what pleased God (which opens up another rabbit trail of theological riff-raff) and so Cain became mad. But look at what God says to him in Genesis 4:5-7
"but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.'"
Almost everyone knows what happens next: Cain kills Abel out of anger and God curses Cain. As a writer, I like to look into the motivations of people and Cain is no different. I think the most obvious is that Cain is a blood-lusting murderer, but that does not make sense for he did give an offering in the first place. I think Cain had the right intentions and truly cared for his relationship with God, but simply lost focus and became filled with jealousy. Does this condone his actions? No, but it does create sympathy, at least from me, for I see a lot of him in my personal walk with Jesus. Any time I sin, I always have right intentions but have simply wavered from the arrow’s path.
The most important thing I gain from this story is in that passage above. God is sympathizing with failure. The God of perfection, who, at Adam’s first sin, could have torn the world into a nonexistent void of shame, but instead stands at the pitiful offering of a failure of man and says, “Why has your face fallen?” In a recent conversation with someone very close to me, we touched on the apparent sympathy that God plays within our sin. With Christianity comes conviction, with conviction comes shame, and with shame comes depression. If you’re feeling sadness while in sin, I have great news, you are on your way to redemption.
But if we are going to hold to the idea that God is perfect and all-knowing, then we must understand that God knows we are going to fail. God knows every single time you are going to utterly and completely fail His perfect plan and He is still there. At the core of Scripture, there is an epic tale of light and dark and with corruption tainting precision. But at the end of this long adventure, there lies clarity that is conveyed in David’s passion in Psalm 19. In this passage he speaks of the perfection found in the Law, which is something that is long held as a being of pain and restrictions among all people. But what David found, and what we find in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is that which brings us the pain of knowledge in our wrongdoing, will ultimately bring us redemption by His blood.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.”—Psalm 19:7-9