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7 deadly sins

7 deadly sins

 

Friends and enemies 

7 deadly sins

 

Friends and enemies 

 Of the so-called Deadly Sins, we generally have one that has become our special friend and that rarely fails to trip us.  Like a puppy, it follows us everywhere.  It is our greatest point of vulnerability.  And happy is the man or woman who identifies this special area of weakness.  Knowing this area of vulnerability is the first step in overcoming it. 

Pride says, “I am better than you.”  Its first appearance was in Lucifer’s rebellion. 

“For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:13-14) 

Pride causes us to choose shortcuts, rationalize ungodly behavior and disregard Scripture and propriety. 

Greed entices us to take more than we need or are entitled to.  We do what we have to do to get our due.  Greed is pride demanding what he believes he deserves. 

Lust is virtue out of order.  “Our culture screams that sex is for enjoyment, for recreation,” writes Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham.  “But sex is like fire.  It brings warmth and life to a relationship.  Yet, we light our fire only in the fireplace; if we lit it wherever the room was chilly, we’d burn the house down.”  Lust doesn’t limit itself to sex but also claws at power, wealth, and control. 

Gluttony is intemperate pursuit or consumption.  It’s usually associated with food but can be other areas just as well. 

Malice is prideful, self-centered, indulgent hatred, which is often the result of nurturing an offense.  It transcends societal norms and demands an imaginary “right” to revenge. 

Sloth is more than lazy.  A slothful person might be very energetic at a hobby but not bother to provide for his family. 

Envy is an itch that can’t be scratched.  It raises its head when we allow ourselves to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. 

Jesus warned that sins cannot simply be fought off.  

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.  Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:43-45) 

Once a sin is displaced, it must be replaced.  A thief, for example, does not stop being a thief when he stops stealing.  He stops being a thief when he gets a job and starts giving to the poor (Ephesians 4:28).  We must put off vice and put on virtue. 

 

cardinal virtues

 

The “put ons” for the Seven Deadly Sins are the Seven Cardinal Virtues.  Displace pride and replace it with humility.  Replace greed with generosity, lust with chastity and gluttony with temperance.  Let love take the place of malice, industry replace sloth and contentment abide where envy once lived.   

The key to the battle is to cultivate the virtue, rather than trying to subdue the sin. 

By the end of this stage, we have put off ungodly behavior (neatly listed for our convenience in Paul’s correspondence).  We may not have addressed motives and intentions, but to the outside observer, we have cleaned up our act.  God highlighted; we pointed, clicked and deleted.  To all who know us, we have become different people.  Foul language, smoking, drunkenness and drug abuse are falling away.  We no longer slander and gossip, punch noses, or steal pencils from work.  We dress modestly and share a bed with no one who is not our spouse.  We at least look, sound, and act like Christians and are ready to enter into another covenant with God. 

First, however, we would do well to pause briefly to look down the road.  If we’re sharp, we may notice stealthy movement just ahead—there, in the shadows, crouching behind an old signpost that warns:

He sits in the lurking places . . . in the secret places he murders the innocent; his eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless.  He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; he lies in wait to catch the poor; he catches the poor when he draws him into his net. (Psalm 10:8-9) 

An ambush awaits us—enticing and sophisticated—because our enemy knows that once we have passed through the Purgative Way into the Illuminative Way, we are much less likely to turn away from Jesus.  Until now, we have sought His hand; we are about to seek His heart.  Though we may walk in circles from time to time or even stall or slip, the devil knows we are about to experience the Lord in a way that is utterly and eternally captivating.

At the same time, we realize that there is a good deal more to this journey than we thought at first.  And we become aware that we can no more complete it in our own strength than we could save ourselves when we were still in our sins.  So we cry out to God, asking Him—and allowing Him—to do in us what we are utterly unable to do.

 

© 2005, 2012 Bill Atwood

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