Practising Ministry 6: Can We Fix It?

No. We can’t. Let me explain…

A friend of mine one pointed out that this is one of the few Christian beliefs which can be routinely put to the test is the sinfulness of humanity. People are not good. Hard as we try, we are selfish, self-centred and proud.

Whenever we do something wrong, we reject God and His way for us. Because of this rejection, we are separated from God: God is Holy, and we are sinful (the opposite of Holy). We therefore cannot coexist with God, because we are at odds with His Holiness.

The way sin works out in life means that our entire world is a broken place.I think most of the world’s problems can be traced back to sin. An example: some suggest that burning fossil fuels to produce things like power is damaging the planet. I imagine most people would say we should look after the planet and reduce our carbon footprint… but we still want power to be available at the flick of a switch.

This is a selfish desire: wanting what want, when want it. Selfishness is sinful, because it is directly opposite the kind of selfless life God wants us to live.

The most tragic result of sin is death. We all die: all people share this in common. In some ways, death is a mercy: God did not wish any human to endure this fallen, sinful world for eternity. Death is a painful experience, as we grieve the loss of another person. I believe death is  so difficult because, deep down, we all know that things weren’t supposed to be this way. We were never meant to die, but we do because of sin. 

What can we do about it? Even if you don’t think people are sinful, you may still recognise that you, others and the world are not as good as they could be, and wonder, “what can I do to make this world a better place?”

There’s small things we might try and do: live a “moral” life, do our best to help other people out, be “good” etc. The trouble is, this has a limited impact, both on us (we all have bad days, after all…) and on others. And besides, if you set your own moral standard, who’s to say you’re “right”? I could be brilliant compared to my standard, but rotten compared to that of someone else! There’s no consistency.

Ultimately, only God can fix our problem. But that’s the topic of next month’s post, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

But how does this impact my ministry practice? Well, I meet a lot of broken people, and when I do, I find that one of two things tends to happen:

  1. They have accepted there is nothing they can do about their life situation, but are able to articulate to me a deep rooted faith which leaves me in awe! They have looked solely to God in their difficulty, and have found He has helped them;
  2. They have accepted there is nothing they can do about their life situation, but it is up to me to act as God’s mouthpiece to them, and try and encourage them to look to God for help in whatever they are facing.

As a minister, one of the most powerful messages of hope I can share with people is that they do not need to fix their own sinfulness.

Can we fix it? No, we can’t. But God can…

Practising Ministry 5: It All Went Wrong

In the previous post, we reflected on the fact that God created all things. As God was creating, he gave humans a special place in the world, and we read about this in the story of Creation:

Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 NIVUK)

Humanity was given a special position in creation: we are at the top of the created order, have responsibility for caring for the world God has given us, and we also have the privilege of a special relationship with God.

This is reflected in the fact that God made us (both male and female) in His image. Being human means that we reflect something of God. There are many ways we might understand this, and there isn’t the space to explore them here. But, needless to say, humans have a special place in creation because we are made in God’s image.

So what happened? The picture painted in Genesis 1 and 2 is beautiful: a wonderful world, with us relating well to one another and God. This bears little resemblance to the world we see around us now. Something must have gone wrong.

It was us. We went wrong. God asked one thing of humans: trust me. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had everything they needed. God said they didn’t need to eat from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. He asked them to trust Him.

They didn’t. They ate of the tree. They rejected God. They thought they knew better than God and tried to do things their own way. This arrogance and pride caused damage far beyond anything I think they expected or imagined (Genesis 3:14-19).

The act of putting ourselves before God is what Christians call sin. Sin is what separates us from God, it’s what caused all the curses we read above, and ultimately, it’s what causes death, destruction and evil in our world.

This is an important aspect of ministry. Often, when ministering to people, bad things will happen to them. Sometimes it’s clear why things happen, but more likely, it is very unclear. People can be affected by awful circumstances which come out of the blue.

It can help people to realise that these things are not some sort of divine punishment, nor are they arbitrary circumstances. The difficulties we face in life are as a result of sin. We can rightly blame sin for these things, and actively try and work against it.

Sin does provide hope, albeit in a round about way. If we say sin caused the world’s problems, then we have an assurance that things were never supposed to be this way. There is something much better than what the world currently has, and it may be possible for us to return to a time when sin didn’t ruin everything.

Unfortunately, sin has so infected humanity, and creation, that there is nothing we can do to overturn it or stop it. In our sinful state, we are eternally separated from God, and there is nothing we can do about it.

But God can do something about it. And He did, because He loves us. But that’s something for the next post in this series…