Don’t Despair, but Don’t Abuse Grace: The Bible in Lent Day 21
The Book of Sirach is one I haven’t read before embarking on this challenge to read the whole Bible in the 40 days of Lent.
The Book of Sirach reads very similarly to the Book of Proverbs. It is a compilation of wise sayings and reflections. Much of it is a reaction to the push at the time to embrace the religions and lifestyles of other cultures.
In chapter 5, there was a passage on dealing with sin that stood out to me as the antithesis of both extremes being offered in our culture today:
Do not say, “I sinned, and what happened to me?” for the Lord is slow to anger.
Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin.
Do not say, “His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins,” for both mercy and wrath are with him, and his anger rests on sinners.
Do not delay to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and at the time of punishment you will perish. – Sirach 5:4-7 RSVCE
In this passage, we are first confronted with the tendency to despair over sin and see no way out. But instead of despair, we are called to remember the mercy and forgiveness of God in spite of our sin.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who presume upon the mercy of God and add sin to sin, saying it doesn’t matter. This attitude is reminded of the justice of God and the call to turn to the Lord in repentance.
We are prone to extremes. To over-estimating the impact of sin on our souls and under-estimating the grace of God or, on the other end of the spectrum, to assume that sin cannot harm us and we can persist in it because of God’s mercy.
As is typical, the response we need lies in the middle.
This passage in Sirach both emphasizes the mercy of God but also calls us to accountability for our sin.
When I sin, I need to reject the idea that my sin doesn’t matter and is of no consequence. My personal sin was significant enough that Christ had to suffer and die for it to be atoned for and that is not something that should be treated lightly.
But neither should I despair of God’s grace and mercy when I turn to Him. Sin is significant but God’s mercy is so vast that He offered a road of reconciliation through the death and resurrection of His Son. And that is something that is worth rejoicing in.
When we sin, we shouldn’t despair, but neither should we continue on, abusing the grace of God. No matter our past, we can start anew today, this very moment, turning from our sin and returning to the Lord, trusting that His mercy will indeed pardon our sin and provide the grace we need to go and sin no more.
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