Any parent who has suffered through their child’s initial efforts to play a musical instrument knows that “playing as good as the next kid” isn’t going to result in a beautiful performance! The fact is, no matter how sincere the effort, the resulting ‘music’ is invariably bad: not bad for a little kid perhaps – but certainly not a performance that does justice to the composer. It’s not that the kids aren’t doing their best – it’s that their best just isn’t good enough to be acceptable by any standard of actual musical beauty. Music played out of tune is truly awful to endure!
So let’s use this analogy to talk about sin. Though sin is not something most people care to hear about, it is a matter of great concern to both God and us. To put it bluntly, if our sins were not an extremely serious matter, it would have been not only pointless for God to send His Son to die for them, but also an act of mind-bending evil! What else could you say about a father who would subject his own son to an excruciating death if there wasn’t a very good reason? So, because we know that God IS good and loving, we must come to grips with the reality that our sinfulness is a truly damning flaw in the universal human condition.
A lot of folks have trouble with that idea. Now, you won’t find many who won’t readily agree that some vile behaviors are truly abhorrent and deserving of punishment – like serial killers, child abusers, and thieves who prey on the elderly. If you say that people who commit such crimes are sinners whom God will punish, you’ll probably hear cheers. But when Christians talk about every human bearing the fatal stain of sin, that’s when people get defensive.
Many years ago, when the internet was young, there was a popular online discussion group that dealt with Christian topics. One day a “lurker” who had been monitoring the conversation weighed in with this gem: “I don’t know why you guys keep talking about sin when you’re actually just talking about normal human behavior.” That remark nicely summarizes the attitude of many: “so long as I’m no worse than others, how can that be a problem?” By the ordinary standards of “fairness” what would you say about a government that considered every citizen a criminal? Or the teacher who failed every student? Wouldn’t a truly loving God at least make allowance for those who meant well and were performing to the limit of their ability? Isn’t our ‘best’ automatically ‘good enough?’
But such a viewpoint actually misses the point of what sin is really all about. Sin isn’t just about doing bad things or not doing good things, but also about having wrong attitudes and misplaced priorities. You see, the essence of sin is being out of tune with God. It’s not a question of occasional mistakes – it’s our inability to make actual music that’s the problem.
We are each instruments created to play God’s sublime music. Our ‘heart strings’ were to be tuned to God’s will so that in every thought, word, and deed, we are playing in perfect harmony with the sweet melody of his own love song and the rhythm of His perfect justice. But sin threw us all out of whack and no matter how well-meaning our intentions, the notes we play are discordant, ill-timed, and an affront to the composer. It doesn’t matter whether we are worse or better than our fellow sinner — our efforts are not only inadequate, but downright offensive. Worse yet, in our natural sinful state, we really don’t care – we want to play our own songs our own way, and to the degree we notice the discord at all, we blame God for not playing along with us! We simply have no place in God’s orchestra!
It’s not a perfect analogy by any means, but do you get the idea? Our ‘bad notes’ are just the symptoms of the bigger problem: we are out-of-tune instruments that are incapable of playing the divine music for which we were designed. We cannot align ourselves with God’s perfect will.
But through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been adopted as God’s own beloved children. And in the power of His Holy Spirit our hearts are being daily perfected as instruments of God’s music. Like a doting parent, God now hears in our hesitant and discordant efforts the beauty of the music we will make when joined to Him in heaven!