October 07, 2009

Without Excuse but not Without Remedy, by Elsie Montgomery

In response to those who justify their lifestyle by pointing to the animal kingdom, and to those who shout “it’s not natural” in condemnation of that lifestyle, may I remind both that neither human nature nor the animal kingdom is what their Creator intended.

Appealing to “nature” to incriminate a homosexual lifestyle does not work. If “nature” is the norm, then it would be acceptable for women to eat their lovers, or parents to feast on their children. In nature, one species can kill another because it is part of the food chain, and both genders can be unfaithful to their mates. Even stealing is fine — if you are a magpie!

Our standard for morality has lost all moorings. It used to be Scripture and our conscience, but Scripture rightly explains how sin ruins everything. We cannot even discern right from wrong, never mind agree where to find out which is which.

Human nature has gone far from what God intended, yet Romans 8 says the “entire creation groans waiting for the redemption” of humanity. That’s why we cannot use “nature” as the norm. Sin ruined nature too, putting it under the “curse of sin.”

Sin wrecks everything. God made people in His likeness (Genesis 1 & 2) but sin marred that likeness. God made a world He called “good” but sin continues to mar that world and affects everything in it.

God describes sin several ways. One is “breaking His laws.” Another is “falling short of His glory.” At the root is an attitude: “everyone has turned to his own way.” This sad state of selfish independence from God and His laws is reflected by commerce’s greed, Hollywood’s vanity, society’s divorce rate, and the lies children tell on a playground. If we reflect any goodness at all, it is because our Maker’s image occasionally glimmers through.

Going back to nature, Scripture says all creation is not as God originally created it. For instance, animals and people did not eat each other in Eden; God provided plants for their food. It was only after sin entered the world that violence entered the food chain.

Some folks acknowledge this and become vegetarians, yet this does not fix or reverse the effects of sin. In fact, God says “all foods are acceptable if received with thanksgiving.” No matter what we eat, we still sin.

Some use nature to justify their sin. “Birds and bees do it . . .  and some animals display lustful tendencies, so that makes it natural . . .  therefore I can do what I want.”

A determination to go our own way looks for someone or something going the same way, a line of thinking that demonstrates how sin affects our judgment.

Others reason that sin is natural in that “I am who I am . . .  I was born this way.” The same could be said of many alcoholics, yet they are not allowed such an excuse.

The reality is that all of us are “born that way.” We came into the world with a tendency to sin. No child has to be taught selfishness. We could offer our excuses to God, but He anticipated this and planned a counter offer before the world began. Jesus gave it when He said, “You must be born again,” offering us a spiritual rebirth, a new nature, and forgiveness to wash away the marred mess of sin.

People often refuse God’s offer by saying things like “religion is responsible for wars” or “the church is full of hypocrites” but these arguments miss the target; the real problem is not religion or the church but sin. Sin is why people fight, including Christians. Sin is why people pretend to be something they are not, also including Christians. War and hypocrisy is not the fault of religion or the church; sin makes liars lie and cheaters cheat, and ruins the godly life God intended.

As if our sin is not enough, when we realize we are guilty we harden our hearts, and refuse to take responsibility. Instead, we rationalize. The New Testament calls it “futility” and says “they are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

Blindness to the things of God happens to anyone who refuses or neglects to hold to biblical thoughts, even Christians. Without reading the Book, no one can know how the Lord wants us to live. We might recognize sin in others and get upset about it, but if we are not paying close attention to sin in our own lives, our judgments will fall short of how God wants to deal with sin in both ourselves and that other person.

We too easily forget that in the mind of God, my sin is no less than your sin because both have the same effect: our sin separates us from Him (and each other). God deeply longs to mend that rift so we can fellowship with each other and with Him. He wants to bless us, to reverse the curse of sin.

We cannot make that happen but we can open the door for it by refusing to rationalize our sin and admit to God that we have fallen far short of His intention for us. At that point we can begin making progress toward recovery, not because we can use plants and animals to prove we are right, or because we have a twelve-step program, but because we have a God who is able to make us whole.

(I wrote this years ago in response to the excuses that were current at the time. The writing could be much softer, yet could not be any more true!)


  1. Lots of good theology in this piece. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Preach it sister! Thanks Elsie for a (timeless) piece to make us take stock. So what about those who say (paraphrased) "there is no such thing as sin - that sin is just a state of mind, opinion or criticism of others? Those who do good deeds and live as honestly as they can and are kind to others cannot be called sinners." (true quote)
    I've had a similar conversation for the discussion you present here (I remember it well) but now I wish I would have had this at my fingertips! Great post, Elsie! Thanks. x


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