Sin and 12 Steps
I suspect that a huge percentage of the population knows the first of the 12 steps. If not verbatim, it’s pretty common knowledge, at least in our heads. It’s become a bit of a proverb: the first step towards a solution is admitting you have a problem. Unfortunately, I think Alcoholics Anonymous and its attendees know this better than many of us Christians. We have it in our heads that we’re supposed to be moral people. We’re supposed to be good. And we are, for pity’s sake! Paul wouldn’t pass out lists of sins that we’re supposed to avoid, stop doing, and shun if we weren’t supposed to put these things away from us. And we’re supposed to do it perfectly; that’s what Jesus said to do in the midst of the sermon on the mount. But the reality is that we mess up. We do sin sometimes. And that sense that we’re supposed to be good and the fact that we messed up, that’s terrifying sometimes. If the sin feels big enough, sometimes our hearts are filled with anxiety. So we hide or cover it up somehow. We pretend it didn’t happen or we try to draw attention away from it. And yet, it’s still there. It’s not enough to admit you’re an alcoholic. You have to admit you took that drink last night. Yet as terrifying as that is, it’s the only opening towards freedom. How do you place something at the foot of the cross if you’re still hiding it behind your back? And I think it’s not just in private prayers. I think it’s in community, too, with safe people who will not judge you but will show empathy and who share in your feelings of regret, those who may even weep with you, like Paul said. James certainly thought so when he told us to confess our sins to one another. And for the record, I think this is more than for the sake of accountability. It’s for the sake of love. I’ve been in accountability groups that just weren’t helpful because we shared facts but not our hearts. We didn’t admit we were scared or hurt, just that we messed up. And people didn’t share love, just advice. The first step towards a solution for even the individual sin, is to admit that there was one. We’re not perfect. Even once we’re saved, we’re still not perfect. And the first step isn’t to stop doing it. As Rich Mullins noted, there are enough people telling us to “Be good.” What we really want is to be God’s. All of us. Even the sinful parts.
God, I know that I still have sin running around in me, and I still act on it. I do things that I shouldn’t, but I also know that hiding those things, from you, from others, even from myself, doesn’t help. Help me remember what alcoholics anonymous has stated as of primary importance for so long – that I have to openly admit what the problem is before anything further can happen. That scares me to death sometimes, so help me also to remember how much I am loved, even in this sinful state. Amen.