If you have been following the liturgical cycle for the past week, you would have noticed an unintentional but common theme in the epistle readings from yesterday and today. (Peter and Paul alongside the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost). Yesterday, we read from 1 Corinthians and today we read from Romans. There were two specific verses that stood out to me which basically have the same meaning.
In Corinthians, we read about the thorn in Paul’s side and how God’s grace is enough, with the ending phrase being “through weakness, power is made perfect.” Today, midway through the reading we see “through affliction we get perseverance, through perseverance, tested virtue, and through tested virtue (which is also translated as character), hope. In essence, we can draw from both scripture readings that by battling and enduring sin, we develop the virtue.
Ok, great. What does this have to do with sin and identity?
Have you ever wondered the reason why people sin? It isn’t just due to desire for pleasure. When Adam and Eve were created, God said “let us create man in our own image and likeness.” In essence, we were like God. But what did Satan tell us. “If you eat this, you will become like gods.” Satan basically tells us that we were NOT like God and would not be until we consumed the fruit that we were commanded not to. We lost our sense of identity and did whatever we could to get it back. And most people turn to sin to do so.
Every sin has a story behind it. The young man addicted to pornography usually began as someone with a simple curiosity. It could be for any number of reasons. Perhaps the world told him that he could never find a girl, so the only way he would be able to see what one looked like or know what sex was like was to watch in on his computer. Or maybe he had a girlfriend and heard all the television comedies and gossip shows (or even saw articles in magazines in the store checkout) about how he was worthless if he didn’t know how to maximize her pleasure, so he turned to porn for advice.
It could be the girl that thinks that her boyfriend won’t truly love her unless she sleeps with him. Or that he doesn’t love her if he says he wants to wait until marriage. Perhaps it is the desire to experience the pleasure over and over again and the lie that it isn’t so wrong since it really isn’t hurting anyone.
Perhaps it is the man who believes his worth is based off of how much money he has, thus does everything to accrue wealth, at the cost of his own neighbors. It could be the young boy who turns into a bully since he thinks that it will give him respect from the weak and popularity among the cool kids. It could be the elderly woman who thinks she is worthless because her grandkids don’t call her anymore.
In every one of these cases, we sin because we believe a lie. We do not know our true identities as children of God when we sin. Maybe we think we are worth more than others when we hurt others. Maybe we think we are less when we hurt ourselves. But if we truly know who we are and who we are called to be, we know we must turn away from sin.
We must endure the sufferings patiently and grow in virtue so that we can too experience the hope of salvation through and in Jesus Christ.