Then --- Now
Did you ever stop to consider just "how" it is you overcome sin in your lives? I bet it wouldn't be by yourself! If we are truthful, we are spurred to consider our actions as sinful in the first place because of something we hear from another, see from the eyes of another, or just simply by seeing a different "picture" modeled in the lives of someone else. We often have blinders where it comes to our sin - we just see what we want to see and it often takes the perspective of another to point us in the right direction. The scripture refers to sin as something which "traps" us. Have you ever seen something struggling to get out of a trap? It is almost impossible to get "out of" whatever it is they "got into" on their own. The hole is too deep, the ropes too tight, or the weight too heavy which is pressing down upon us. We actually need the hands of another, and sometimes even their ability to see clearly what needs to be done.
You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand. (Galatians 6:2 CEV)
There is a song popular by Josh Wilson with the words, "That was then, this is now". It is a song based upon grace - grace declaring a clear cut difference between then and now. In the scheme of things, it isn't so much the "then" which is important, but the "now". No one helps us see the NOW clearer than someone who has "perspective". Perspective begins first through the eyes of Jesus - because no one sees clearer than he does what will break the bonds of sin in our lives. Yet, he never meant for us to be "free" alone - his grace involves us having others help us walk free of the bonds of sin. Grace actually provides companions for the journey!
I have lots and lots of old photographs. How about you? Some of them are quite faded now because of the age of those photos. Others are curled at the edges and a little dogeared because of the frequency they have been held, gone through, and talked about with others. Still others are kind of ignored - taken but not really "focused upon" much after taking. Some of the old photos actually act as a "memory jogger" of past events, don't they? We see how we looked in the seventies, eighties, and so on. We take notice of what we drove, who we hung out with, and what our homes looked like then. In almost all of these cases, we can say "that was then, this is now".
We don't look the same, dress the same, or even dwell in exactly the same surroundings. Even if we are in the same house as we were in a photo taken thirty years ago, the surroundings change somewhat just because of the changes of time's passage. What we were is no longer what we are - this is the "doing" of grace in our lives. What we used to think "mattered" may no longer be as significant to us - because perspective changes depending on where are "at" right now. This is no more true than when we are in bondage to some sin in our lives - it changes where we are "at" and in so doing, it changes how we see things.
The view from inside a cage is much different than the perspective we have when gazing into the cage from the outside! Sin "cages" us - limiting our movement, holding us within the bonds of the "perimeter" it establishes over our actions. If you have ever spent much time watching a caged animal, you might notice they pace a lot - going over and over again the exact same territory they have traversed for quite some time. Why? They don't know to do anything else because their cage establishes the perimeter in which they exist. They eventually don't even notice the cage because they begin to think of their cage as "their territory".
Sin isn't too far from being like a caged animal - at first angered by the limits of the cage, but over the course of time, coming to accept this is just how it is going to be. This is when we need the perspective of someone on the outside of the "cage". We need the faithfulness of a friend to come alongside, helping us to see there is life "outside" of the perimeter of sin's hold in our lives. We need each other to separate the "now" from the "then". Grace does more than provide a way of escaping the past - it provides the helping hands to encourage us to make the full transition from the "then" into the "now" of life. Whenever someone presents a different perspective of our sin, it may just be they are seeing our sin from the side of grace! What better way to see it? Just sayin!