I heard a sermon once that quoted G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton was a significant apologist for the Christian faith, a man concerned for a world floundering in uncertainty. At the time the newspapers were asking the question, “What is the matter with our world?” It is hardly a surprising question for any of us to entertain, in any age. But it was Chesterton’s honesty expressed in the Letters to the Editor that may challenge a less than willing mind to come to the heart of the real problem.
“What is the problem with the world? I am the problem with the world.” Not a long letter with its point lost in the verbose claims of human pride. Rather, the briefest response that placed the problem humbly in the human heart. Chesterton was honest enough to recognise that there is something broken in our humanity that cannot be fixed by human effort but inevitably requires forgiveness and the assistance of someone greater than ourselves.
It was Chesterton who said “there are many, many angles at which one can fall but only one angle at which one can stand straight. If we do not understand sin, humanity will forever test the angles.”
That does not sound at all good to me but reflects a truth we see every day in the falling angles of us all. C. Neil Strait wrote, “Sin does not serve well as a gardener of the soul. It landscapes the contour of the soul until all that is beautiful has been made ugly; until all that is high is made low; until all that is promising is wasted. Then life is like the desert – parched and barren. It is drained of purpose. It is bleached of happiness. Sin, then, is not wise, but wasteful. It is not a gate, but only a grave.”
A modern attempt to deal with the problem of sin is to remove God from our lives. There can be no sin where there is no moral law giver, only a subjective response to those things we don’t like others doing.
However, this attempt to remove sin by removing God never adequately deals with my reaction to those who I know sin against me and nor does it offer an answer to the shame I feel when I consider the landscape of my own soul – considerations common to us all.
Is it any surprise that we live in such a litigious age, demanding our rights, declaring ourselves always the victim, complaining that justice is not done while ignoring our responsibilities?
Of course, when we let God back into the picture, the politically correct is silenced by the truth: sin is sin, we are all guilty, it is no one else’s fault and God will hold us accountable for the way we live. Sin has messed up everything and as the question is asked, “What is the matter with the world?” this rueful writer hopes you might join him in the confession, “I am the problem with the world.”
But while I am the problem, I know that God is the answer. You need look no further than Jesus Christ who took responsibility for our sins and paid the price of justice for them. Set free not by the removal of God from our consideration, which is an unrealistic proposition, but set free by the forgiveness and love from God that can landscape sin’s drought-affected contours of the soul. God offers something much better for the future and can assist in helping every person to stand straight, despite the angles at which we fall.