Evil, Sin & Thin blue line
March 16th 2021
The Met Officer arrested on suspicion of murder erupted an online outrage about crime within the Police Service. Murder is absolutely abhorrent. There is evil in this world. Sin is everywhere including within the thin blue line of Police where many undertake a dangerous, arguably impossible and often thankless job. “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.” (1 Timothy 1:8)
I’ve never been in prison or even had a speeding ticket despite many years and many miles of driving. Am I righteous enough or am I lying to myself? Well, it’s not a lie exactly. I just embellish the truth. In truth, I can’t remove my sinful nature irrespective of softening descriptions. I’m far from perfect. My expectation of self and others needs to change.
I can list some things I’ve never done wrong, but I have an even bigger list of things I should have done right. I’m no theology nut, but, there is sin of omission as well as commission. “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:42) I too am a member of the fallen, the sinful.
Being human does not make us all sinful, surely? “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12)
The thin blue line of Police officers would be an exception. But… Police officers are people like everyone else and need to be held to account. We know they are not perfect. The Police are subject to external scrutiny, media commentary, requests for enquiry by the public and the involvement of the police watchdog by the Home Secretary, as evidenced this week. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is real even if Anti-Corruption (AC-12) is fiction. Line of duty is good to watch though, season six is starting next Sunday on the BBC.
Religious leaders would not be sinful and evil. They preach and read the bible repetitively. But… The bible describes religious leaders doing good things as well as others that are clearly completely out of step with the God they claim to represent. (Matthew 23) Is that true of other Christians too? That would be my understanding of scripture. However, we must honour those who strive faithfully to teach and preach. (1 Timothy 5:17)
What about the Royal? They don’t need to sin with all of their power, money and status to enjoy. Back to the Bible again. King (ish) Herod ordered the murder of small children in an attempt to kill Jesus. (Matthew 2:16) Slyly, “that fox” Herod, tried to kill Jesus before he could die in Jerusalem. (Luke 13:32)
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. We are all sinners, even though to say such a thing is unpopular and awkward. We need to raise our awareness of sinfulness and stop trying to pretend it’s not there, or that some are already free of it this side of eternity. Only Jesus, “committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22)
But here and now? I’m 18 so I can watch what I want. It’s my money to spend on whatever forbidden fruit I choose, I earned it. It’s easy to tamper with temptation. Sin can be hidden by makeup coverings such as courtesy, politeness, good manners and fitting in with others! We don’t use the term “sin” preferring to hide it behind alternatives like “rascal”, “mischievous”, “unsteady”, “loose”, “wild”, “thoughtless”, “rocky”, “lad”, “lass” and prefaced with “they’re a bit of a…”
Sin often comes unannounced and well hidden. Judas arrived with a treacherous kiss. (Matthew 26:49) Despite focus elsewhere, Christians are far from free of temptation and sin. We should therefore, “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)
Some things we want to hide and prefer not to talk about if they make us feel uncomfortable. Sin is one of them.
Suicide is another different topic I mention here because, like sin, it is often not discussed. People may find themselves unsupported. Is this an omission on our part? People in all levels of our society are affected.
Suicide may be in the current news again, but it has been a massive problem for years. When you reach that place, when the world is not where you want to be living, you are not up to trying to find out about things spiritually. You can get to practical advice on strategies online, but fortunately there are some more positive emotional mental health services available too. Background knowledge through open supportive discussion is often missing and hidden because it’s awkward. Thank you to the well advertised and accessible Samaritans who support all irrespective. I believe they live up to the good Smartian. (Luke 10:25-37)
There are accounts of suicide in the old and new testaments. (2 Samuel 17:23, Matthew 27:5) I started my reflections by highlighting, “Reasons to Live” a rare secular, experientially driven, story with hope for the suicidal. During my illness I considered suicide as the only thing I had control over in order to escape a world I didn’t want to be in.
Suicidal thoughts are not something you feel able to share and I was even dubious about what health professionals would do with them. Would even that possible escape route be forcibly taken from me? Fortunately the media have no interest in me.
Mental health, let alone suicide, does not come without judgment from the hearer, but I do so here because I think it’s better, honest and potentially helpful.
In my post-accident life, someone has mentioned their struggle with suicide to me. I think and hope I was helpful, drawing upon my personal experiences, because they were very open with me despite the tears. Personally, I have benefitted from some great professional help over time, in hospital and beyond. I moved from “at risk” to “recovery” phases despite my initial fears. Post-accident I have now been free from prescribed antidepressants for many months.
I don’t have answers for others, but I can listen. We are all different. A secular hope. Everything changes. I am now in a better place. When things were bad, I did not really believe this possible. I don’t have any spiritual answers but when in that place, I just thought a God of love was a better hope than a world of troubles. We are here a short time and I have held on to a future when, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
I’ll move on from suicidal thoughts. I’ll get back to focussing on evil and sin, not literally, just textually.
It is so tempting to start to rank sin based on our own standards. The laws of men vary over time and location. Christians should submit to our governing authorities (e.g. Romans 13) whilst remembering that obeying God remains our priority. (Acts 5:29) Knowingly opposing the sprit of God is unforgivable. (Matthew 12: 31-32) The Spirit is the truth. (1 John 5:6)
I do struggle with Church which can seem a million miles away from representing God. Humanly contrived ceremonial formal religion alone cannot satisfy the Christian. When that is all a church offers, we are in trouble.
Many will dislike me for saying such things. My expectations might be unrealistic or is it that my awareness of sinfulness has developed. Don’t get me wrong, there are some truly wonderful Christians in the church, and Police in the Police Service. Amazing people everywhere.
My family and I have been supported by some church members and Police Officers magnificently post-accident. It’s easy to be critical. However, a greater awareness of sin, including my own, more than suggests that mankind is inherently sinful. Christians are sinners too, even if we’d rather keep our thoughts on forgiveness at Christ’s expense. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
I am no trained theologian, despite my surface level grappling with bits of scripture to help me make sense of things post-accident. Shotgun theology of my own. The more I read, the more I become aware of my deficiencies. It’s a good job I believe that God loves all and not just the cognitive elite.
We all battle with sin, daily. “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.” (Mark 7:21-23)
The more I have learned about sin the more I realise just how far away sinfulness is from the glory and love of the father. Right now, we need to forget about labels and status and cry out for forgiveness that we might joyfully become what God wants for his creation.
We remain this side of eternity right now. We are pre salvation through justification, regeneration and sanctification. There is much to be done in our sanctification journey. Let’s not kid ourselves otherwise. Will heaven really become home?
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14)
The better we understand sin, the more we rejoice Easter.