Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wordsmithing, Part 2: Introduction to Chapter 7

Here's another effort at succinctly representing edits without providing a confusing amount of detail. Toward that end, I'm also leaving out some minor edits to a few paragraphs.

Blue text is Brian's draft
Orange text represents my current edit (which may change even before it goes back to Brian for his review)
Grey highlight means text was deleted
Yellow highlight means text was moved aside and may appear elsewhere in the chapter.

I thought the idea of sin as a wild animal was worth unpacking a little, offering the reader a longer and more interesting introduction while extending and deepening the teaching content. As with other edit samples I have shared in this blog, some of what appears as "my" text are Brian's ideas moved forward from later in the chapter. Any or all of what appears below may change after Brian sees it.


“‘The tiger ate her hand. It slowly proceeded to eat the rest of her arm.’

That’s how Vikram Chari described the horrifying spectacle that he and his 6-year-old son witnessed at the San Francisco Zoo on December 22, 2006, when a Siberian tiger named Tatiana attacked her keeper.

For those who work with wild animals, the bloody assault is a reminder of what they already know but don’t always remember: The creatures they’ve become so attached accustomed to can turn on could kill them at any moment. ‘If you’re not afraid of it, it will hurt you,’ said animal behaviorist Dave Salmoni. ‘You can’t get the wild out of a cat because he’s in a cage.’”

Lots of us think we can tame sin, but like a tiger, sin turns and masters us at the first opportunity. You cannot get the wild out of sin by simply caging it. Evil is untamable. No pet sin is safe. As the seventeenth century pastor and theologian John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

As we saw in chapter six, spiritual transformation always involves dealing with sin and growing in grace. This chapter is about the negative aspect – dealing with sin.  We need to learn how to kill the beast within.

Like an animal trainer who has become familiar with a beast, over time we too can grow careless. We forget what we are dealing with, and at some level we come to imagine we have tamed our sin, that we have rendered it harmless enough to share a kind of mutual coexistence, an approximation of harmony.

But sin will never be domesticated. It is wolf, not dog; piranha, not goldfish. Sin is not simply different from us in some neutral, potentially compatible way. It is opposed to us. It is our enemy, and everything about its nature, at every moment, is wired to destroy.

This is where the analogy with wild animals breaks down, for sin can be far more subtle in its destructive intentions than a slashing claw or crushing jaws. We regularly come under assault from our sin and don't even notice, for our sin knows us well. It is expert at chipping away quietly at our character and beliefs, aiming precisely at our weak points.

Therefore, to borrow the language of political correctness, a Christian must never be tolerant, open-minded, and nonjudgmental about his or her sin, as if it were simply a matter of preference. Rather, we are called to hate our sin in the most virulent of ways—to despise it, reject it, deplore it, starve it, and make every effort to kill it.

That’s what this chapter is about—understanding and implementing the biblical call to kill sin.

Theologians call the duty of dealing with our sin in this way mortification. Mortification is not a word we often use. We are familiar with several related words – such as mortuary (a funeral home) or mortician (a funeral director). When people use the word “mortify,” they usually mean to humiliate or shame someone.  But that is not what theologians mean by “mortification.” When it comes to sin, to mortify means to kill.

1 comments: October 22, 2009 at 9:05 PM  

This is really a comment on chapter 6, but I couldn't figure out how to leave a comment there. First, Brian, I want to commend you on your bravery on accepting, as it were, multiple editors rather than one. I liked it when you had "understanding" rather than "attitude" as one of your headings. Attitude has a lot of pejorative connotations as it is used today. However, you need to "speak the truth in love," so if attitude is the appropriate word you should use it. Also, understand that this comment is coming from a person who struggles with fears and anxieties and filter it accordingly.

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