Yesterday over lunch Matt, a global minister who serves in Germany, shared something important.  Brokenness, he commented, is something we all experience in a fallen world but our experience of brokenness is wider than our own sin.

By that he meant that particular sins reveal our broken relationship with God as spiritually fallen humans.  We also experience the brokenness of others as their sin spills over on us.  And, finally, we experience the broken state of the creation as we deal with illnesses, earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods that come out of God’s Genesis 3 curse.

Matt also mentioned how we as Christians can respond to these challenges: our own brokenness calls for repentance; the impact we experience from others calls for our forgiveness; and the broken state of the cosmos calls us to the assured hope that God will eventually restore his creation as he promises in Romans 8, 2 Peter 3, and elsewhere.  Addressing all three features of brokenness is crucial if we are to find God’s peace.

As I appreciated Matt’s reflections I thought back to my own “aha” moment years ago when I first explored Richard Sibbes’ 17th century theology.  The Puritans argued about salvation—the cure of sin—while presuming that they all shared a common definition of sin.  Yet different versions of sin were in play: covenant or law breaking for some and self-love for others.  So separate trajectories of salvation emerged.  One centered on resolving the behavioral sins of law breaking while the other called for turning from self-love to a new love for Christ.  Both options are still active.

Matt’s thoughts led me to reflect on how our separate insights intersect with each other: we experience the brokenness of others through their behaviors.  We may realize, of course, that selfishness motivated the behaviors, but it’s the behaviors that first cause the hurt so we mainly focus on reducing or avoiding those behaviors.  A law-based version of spirituality supports this focus.

That leads us to a crux issue: if we avoid asking whether our own hearts are sinfully broken—whether we still live as selfish individuals—we can defend ourselves against the complaints of others about our sins by deflecting attention to what others have done to us, or to the pain of illness or natural disasters that justify our self-caring.

These become the big issues of life based on an underlying premise that we deserve to be free from the pain of brokenness.  Thus we hide behind a behavioral disease-and-cure solution—as in, “What I did isn’t so bad compared to what others have done to me!”—and thus avoid treating our selfishness as feeding the realm of brokenness.  This behavioral morality and a subtle relativism readily blinds us to our own role in the mess.

Can it be any different?  Yes!  For one, we can say to ourselves, “Oh Lord, I now see how blind others are—and Adam was—to the hideous impact of selfishness!”  That also tells us about ourselves: “I’m certainly just as blind, given my own brokenness.”

This premise, that even with the coming of salvation we are still sinful, with habits of our heart—the “flesh”—still defined by self-interest, is critical to finding peace in a broken world.  It is only by seeing sin as self-love that we start to turn from spiritual myopia to seeing the truth about ourselves—that we bring brokenness to others just as they bring it to us.

Isn’t it time, then, to confront sin at every level?  We can find a way forward by repenting at the heart level.  Given the self-blinding nature of sin we do this by asking God to search us and to show us where our hearts are out of line with his own heart.  We also listen to him in his Word and respond as he exposes our brokenness through Biblical truth.

Only then will we move on to the next steps of forgiving others and embracing the hope God offers us.  That, in turn, brings us peace in a broken world.

2 Responses to Broken

  1. Bill Burge September 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    Ron you are so correct, we need to look inward at all times and obey Jesus when He say in Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. The question is where will I be if I do not forgive others, will I be saved?

  2. Jack September 6, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    Once saved, friend, always saved. You have utter assurance that Jesus will lose none that the Father gives to him. If John 6:39 is a lie then we are all very much in trouble. The question might be better put, “if I do not forgive others, was I ever indeed saved?” The answer may still be, could be! Alas, all fall short of the glory of God. No one is worthy, not even one! Therefore you sin, I sin, all sin, all too often–and therefore Paul’s lament about wretchedness. If Saint Paul was wretched, then I am wretched indeed! The question might yet again be rephrased, when one realizes they have not forgiven do they confess aloud to God their sin and ask forgiveness? If sin cannot dislodge you from Jesus’ saving embrace, then there is a corollary that repentance will not re-save you. No such thing. Indeed I think it would be problematic if anyone knew they held unforgiveness in their heart, nursed it, harbored it, indulged it, because that is what the world does. Isn’t it true moment by moment we are captured by our affections and are either sons of Satan or sons of the living God? If we are the sons of the living God, then we know His voice and we follow him albeit very badly imperfectly. This truth defines those who will repent and those who simply cannot. it is not in them. Consider the narrow gate does not let many pass but rejoice that those who are able to believe /are/ saved. Sure, many will confess (profess) but their hearts are far from Him. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

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