As I was sitting here thinking about my newsletter, a piece of gossip is burning in my mind. I keep thinking about how I want to share it and how the person who heard it would react. I can hear their laughter in my head and the news in my mind burns all the more. Yet I know in my heart it would not be the right thing to do, to share this piece of information since it would result in tearing down the gossiped-about person, instead of building them up through affirmation. This dilemma brings to mind a letter Martin Luther wrote to Phillip Melancthon- a letter that contained one of Luther’s most famous phrases, “Sin boldly…”
Does this mean I should just share this gossip, in the spirit of bold sinning? No, because then I would be ignoring the whole sentence from the letter, “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death and the world.” In its context, the famous phrase seems a lot less like an exhortation to do whatever you want and is more of a reminder of what has been done for you.
The reality of life in this world is that nothing we do is without sin. Even our best intentions fall short due to large and small reasons (self-interest, self-promotion, lack of self-awareness). Yet this does not mean that we should or can rest on the laurels of grace and do nothing. Simply commenting on the transient nature of the world and watching it fall apart around us ignores the reality of God’s love for God’s creation and the fact that God has placed us in this world as well.
We have so many gifts and blessings given to us by God that meet the needs of the world in a variety of ways. The Holy Spirit moves in us, through us and for us- guiding to where we can offer moments of grace in times of great need. Along with that, Paul reminds us in Romans 5:8 that Christ died for us while we were sinners in order that we might be right with God. Christ’s efforts make us the great deficit that we cannot in terms of graciousness, faithfulness and mercy.
So what about sinning boldly? Well, we do not need to go around purposefully doing what we know to be wrong so that God can have even more chances to show grace to us. God does that without our creating the opportunity. We sin boldly by seizing the opportunities around us for love, care and service to others. We do the best we can with the blessed assurance that God’s grace and power cover our shortfalls in our relationship with one another and with Him.
As the ashes of that burning piece of gossip cool in mind, I rejoice in the fact that I am and will be forgiven for even thinking about it. More importantly, I need to think of something good to say about my potential gossipee- something that builds up and sustains. In the coming month, may the Holy Spirit grant you the courage to sin boldly, the wisdom to see opportunities and the faith to believe God’s grace stretches beyond the bounds of any shortfall.