All of us have been thinking recently about the oil spew in the Gulf. We’ve heard about the top-kill maneuver. We’ve fretted about the increasing environmental ramifications. We’ve seen the fingers of blame pointed this way and that. Last week I read an interesting commentary on our collective response to the Gulf disaster written by Patrick Deneen, of the Front Porch Republic (a website that some friends have recommended recently).
Deneen writes: “What’s remarkable about the images of the oil spewing from the severed pipe a mile deep in the Gulf is the widespread belief that this leakage represents an environmental catastrophe in contrast to the norm. Our understanding of the “norm,” of course, is the belief that we control our circumstances and fate. Our true norm, in fact, consists in a more widespread but no less disastrous release of poison into our world.”
Being a pastor whose job is to think about ‘spiritual stuff’ all day, Deneen’s observation made me think not about the release of contaminating oil into our oceans, but about the release of a different contamination: sin’s release in our hearts. I realized that Deneen’s commentary applies equally to the condition of each of our lives. We live under the illusion that we can control and manage the poison continually spewed into our lives by our hearts.
Occasional disasters in our lives (caused often by our own negligence) alert us to our broken-ness and the devastation that broken-ness can produce. Meanwhile we’re often unaware of the subtle but insidious ways that the daily seepage of sin damages us. A public fall from grace of a leader or celebrity is disaster; but our mundane capitulation to gossip or jealousy or anger or lust is unnoticed and un-noteworthy.
The message of Christianity tells us that our ‘norm’ as flawed human beings is the continual leakage of poison from our hearts. Thus, we should not only react to large-scale disasters in our lives; we must learn to recognize those daily discharges of sin as equally disastrous.
Turn to Jesus
Whenever we see the poison of sin spewing (or merely dripping) from our hearts, we must turn to Jesus, who knows both our catastrophes and our ‘norm’, but who lived and died to fix our poisoned hearts.
As he said to his followers the night he was betrayed (according to this paraphrase from the Jesus Story Book Bible): “This is how God will rescue the whole world. My life will break and God’s broken world will mend. My heart will tear apart—and your hearts will heal. Just as the Passover lamb died, so now I will die instead of you. My blood will wash away all of your sins. And you’ll be clean on the inside-in your hearts.”