Rule Breaking, Excuse Making Humanity

At the beginning of the a brand new year, it is not uncommon for many people to set out for the new year with resolutions in hand wanting to create new good habits, get rid of bad habits or to simply better themselves in some way. I heard a stat that about 80% of people’s New Year’s resolutions dealt with losing weight.  New Year’s Resolutions are fantastic ways to finally start doing something that you should already be doing, or perhaps to stop something that you really shouldn’t be doing.  There is something about the turn of the year that gives us fresh start to begin anew.  Really, there is nothing stopping us from turning over a new leaf in July or March or any other time of the year.  But when earth begins another rotation around the sun, there is something about the feeling of newness that compels us to begin fresh again.

However, the reputation that New Year’s Resolutions have is not turning over a new leaf, beginning new or bettering one’s self, but instead a reputation of failure.  Usually, when people think about a New Year’s resolution, they think of good intentions but quit this new habit after a couple of months.  Those who set out to lose weight somehow find themselves in McDonald’s rather than the gym.  Those who set out to read the Bible in a year, find their Bibles getting dusty when the book mark reaches Leviticus.  New Year’s resolutions have this reputation because most of us know how hard it is to stick to the resolutions we’ve set for ourselves.  This fact of life, I think, is a fascinating statement about the state of humanity.  How often we set a rule for ourselves and then break the very rule we’ve set for ourselves.  This would seem to indicate that we are by nature rule breakers rather than rule keepers.  For when we make a rule for ourselves like, “I will work out every morning from now on,” we usually end up breaking that rule.  We can’t even keep the rules we set for ourselves, how then do we keep the rules that God gives us?  When Jesus was asked about the greatest of the commandments, he said, “Love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus boiled down God’s rules for us in a pretty simple way, “Love God and love your neighbor.”

But just as we are rule breakers by nature we are also excuse makers by nature.  When we don’t get up in the morning to work out, we usually have a marvelous justifying excuse, “Well, it’s pretty cold, but I’ll run twice as far the next day.”  We learn our excuse making from the same place we learn our rule breaking: from our first parents, Adam and Eve.  When God confronted Adam because of his sin, Adam responded, “The woman You gave me, she made me eat.”  And the woman likewise tried to pass the buck saying, “The serpent deceived me.”  No excuse for sin is good enough for God when it comes to sin.  That is true for us today too.  There is no excuse for not loving our neighbor as we should.  We are guilty for hatred toward our neighbor.  There is no excuse for not loving God.  We are guilty of not loving God when we don’t come to church to hear his Word or when we fail to pray to Him.  There is no excuse for sin.

While God is not in the business of making excuses for sin, He is in the business of providing an answer for sin.  God is not content with this condition that humanity is in.  He is not content with man being rule breakers or excuse makers.  He would rather humanity be freed from this disease of incessantly breaking rules and free them from this bondage of sin.  And the way He does this is by placing Himself in the bondage of sin and death.  In order for God to do that, He became man Himself so to put on the shackles of sin and death.  By Jesus’ death on the cross, He puts all sin upon Himself and all the excuses that go along with it.  In Christ’s resurrection, He broke the chains of sin and death, defeating the plague of sin and death.

Therefore, we rule breaking and excuse making sinners need not await until the next new year to begin again fresh and new.  The Lord grants us newness and forgiveness this Sabbath Day because of the death and resurrection of Christ.  Christ has won our freedom for us by His work on the cross and He comes to us to deliver this freedom to you.  He bestows this gift of freedom to you through His Holy Word, in the waters of Holy Baptism and in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  Any excuses for sin that you have left are just denying what Christ has accomplished for you.  God does not want your excuses, what He wants is perfect blood—which was given in the death of Jesus.  Making excuses for sin now only binds you to your sin, but confessing your sin and receiving the Lord’s gifts of Word and Sacrament at the church is freedom from sin.

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