If I choose to, I can always find someone whose behaviour makes me look like a paragon of virtue. Rather like the Pharisees, it’s easy to scrub up well, while inside I remain confused. Acknowledging sin is difficult, more because of the judgement we fear from others.
Any one of us can point to the fact that we are sinners, with the assurance that we have been saved by grace. This has the effect of tidying up sin. Yet, while sin as my natural condition is most assuredly dealt with by Christ, my capacity to continue to sin knows no bound until and unless I check its course. This is challenging, for sin is seldom superficial.
I’ve been working steadily in the Oratory garden clearing borders for more colourful flower displays. When I come across something that needs removing, there’s little point in simply removing what appears above the surface. While its root remains, it will continue to reappear and need treatment again and again. Treating sin is like that: a prayer of confession to access God’s forgiveness and grace but lacking the courage or will to tackle the root, is incomplete.
Digging out roots is a tiring and often long drawn-out process, as is addressing sin. Seeking forgiveness without rooting out the sin is disabling. It means I am constantly affected by that sin, and its roots grow deeper, becoming ever more difficult to remove. Only by acknowledging both the sin and my weakness in addressing it enables God to hear my cry for help. Such help is not simply by divine grace alone. I have to roll up my sleeves and do my fair share of gardening.