f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Under the Surface

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Under the Surface

Were you able to see the sins of my past and present, you would probably not trust me to buy you a soft drink let alone think that I was an appropriate choice to be acquiring fiction for a Christian publisher.

The remarkable part, though, is God’s okay with it. (So far, at least.)

The point isn’t that my sins are so much worse than yours—though they are, because they are mine and I am chief among all sinners. The point is that God, through the cleansing blood of his Son, is the only one truly able to forget my sins. Humans, me included, we tally sins or worse, weigh them. We’ve developed a complex calculus for which sins can be mentioned in public, which require special confession, which should never be spoken about, and which may not actually apply to us.

And we carry that over into our fiction because we’re fallen and we’ve got no other option. We’ve all a bit of Pharisee in our heart, I think, and an eagle eye for those stepping outside the law our calculus defines. It’s the easiest place to fixate, because these are the visible things, those things on the surface.

The drinking.
The swearing.
The unmentionable body parts.
The improper political sign in your yard.
The wrong music on your iPod.
The step-kids and ex-spouses.
The lingering lawsuit.

These are the things that, to evoke the ghost of Hester Prynne, are easy to brand on someone’s chest.

It’s a little bit harder, nay impossible, to see the knot of murder in someone’s heart, or the flame of adultery in their eye. And I’m not sure we like to either because that begins to implicate us. I am not holy as my Father is holy. I’ve probably had an impure thought just in the writing of this post.

The calculus that manages to include these sins, however, does something extraordinary—it turns us into an “other.” We’re suddenly outside that comfy clan of “good Christians.” We’re a goat in the face of such calculus. We have to be. That’s the whole point of Gethsemane and Golgotha.

“Other” is simply not a concept that fits well into Jesus’ ministry. Yes, there’s the final judgment, that ultimate sorting still to come, but our call I think is to discover, reconcile, and repent of the legion of sins in our heart and give hope to others that doing the same themselves is worthwhile.