If you were to draw a circle, and label is “sense” there would be no need to draw a second circle labeled “nonsense.” If sense is all that is inside the circle, nonsense is of necessity all that is outside the circle. The same is true with respect to obedience. Draw your circle, and label it obedience. Now everything outside the circle is disobedience. Which is bigger, the world inside the circle or the world outside? God’s law tells us what to do. He commands, and we must obey. But the world, the flesh and the devil have an infinite number of temptations. Sin comes in a cornucopia of flavors.
One of the hardest parts of serving as an elder in the church of our Lord is that we come face to face with that reality. I often suggest that the hardest thing about being a shepherd is loving the sheep. (No, I don’t mean that it is difficult to get to the point where we love the sheep. Rather I mean that our love for the sheep causes us great pain.) Watching them bang the wool on their heads bloody by foolish behavior crushes the spirit. Truth be told, however, there is a whole mess of walls out there. The Bible commands us, for instance, not to commit adultery. Jesus had to remind us how broad this one category can be, that a man can commit this sin with his pants on. But the Bible also commands us to love our wives. There are countless ways to fail here. My own life provides more than ample examples, without even looking out to the broader flock that I help to care for.
We all, in short, have far too small a view of sin. Our first mistake is to focus too exclusively on the sins of commission. Doing the wrong thing, perhaps because it may be easier to avoid, looks to our minds to be so much more wicked then failing to do the right thing. Our second mistake is to think our minds are big enough to always be conscious of all the sins before us. Let’s see. I didn’t kill anyone today. I didn’t rob a bank. I didn’t lie, well, not really. Okay, I’m good.
The Great Commandment is a summary of that summary known as the 10 Commandments. Those ten are expanded into all the law of God. It all begins, however, with our calling to love the Lord of our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Anyone want to suggest “I’m keeping that one”? It ends with the tenth commandment, that we not covet. Failure here, however, is never discreet. Remember that James told us, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (3:16). Every evil thing. Get outside the circle of contentment, and you will find every evil thing.
We need to cultivate a bigger, and more accurate view of the scope of not just sin, but our sin. Thereby we in turn cultivate a deeper and more potent view of the grace of God, and His grace in our own lives. This in turn leads to our loving Him more fully, and to more grateful hearts. Sin abounds. His grace, however, conquers all.