Sin Is Hard, Doing the Right Thing is Easier
Sin is generally thought to be fun and obedience is thought to be drudgery. After reading Hannah Whithall Smith’s classic, The Christian’s Secret to the Happy Life, in which she said that the key to happiness is obedience, I thought she was nuts! Obedience—loving harsh people, working hard without being appreciated, being responsible when tired—seemed difficult and punishing.
So I was perplexed when I heard Dallas Willard speak so breezily of “routine, easy obedience.” Yet he was easygoing, not uptight. He didn’t force himself to do good things he didn’t want to do; his goodness was a natural outflow of his conversations with God. Yet obedience to God didn’t make him a wimp but made him confident and purposeful without being a know-it-all. His winsome conformity persuaded me that doing what God wants makes life less complicated and so much less tension-filled.
In truth, obedience creates space to relax but sin creates stress. Sin wastes energy—ignoring people, trying to make a good impression, overworking to the point of exhaustion, buying things to fill our soul’s hunger. Resentment, especially, is a lot of work. We have to feed it every day by thinking about how we were wronged. We have to rehearse the details of how we were offended so we can blurt them out to anyone who might listen. We have to remember to distance ourselves from those we resent instead of enjoying their company. It isn’t fun. (And it ruins your face. Oscar Wilde so famously said that by 40, we have the face we deserve.) Sinning is ridiculous because the wrong things we do increase the burden in our life. Life is more full, engaging and creative if I ask God to help me forgive people who upset me, do my best no matter what, and make jokes about my mistakes, not others’.
This matters because we’re not going to attempt to obey unless we think it works well, that results in peaceful, anxiety-free life. Obedience results in righteousness (dikaisune in Greek), which is not being obnoxiously self-righteous, but a deep attractive inner goodness. Righteousness is like a really good grandmother, who makes our favorite cookies but whom we obey in a heartbeat because we love her. Doing things God’s ways ultimately lightens the burden of life and brings love, joy and peace. Most of all we need to see that God’s own self is deeply good and that God commands us to do good things that will ultimately give us the richest life possible.
What is the next right thing God is inviting you into? Ask Jesus for the power to carry it out.
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Grace and peace,