This week I tried hard to think about how young I was when I came upon the idea of “sin.” I don’t know exactly, but I imagine I was very young. My mother told me at four that I already qualified to go to that ugly place if I didn’t give my life to Jesus. I didn’t consider myself a “sinner” back then but I know I was at least stealing candies from my brothers and sisters.

Just to be on the safe side, then, I decided to accept Jesus right there and then. And I am glad I did because now I know that even that little candy escapade would have been enough to make me persona non grata in heaven. When we are children, we are spared from so much suffering for simply not knowing. Don’t you wish sometimes you could revert back to the times of ignorance before you were awakened to the harsh realities of the world?

When I was about 12 or 13 a pretty young lady, albeit much older than me, kissed me on the lips in front of the church. Somehow that short little kiss told me about a world of pleasures out there that I didn’t know existed. I was so naive. I kept asking her to do that again — like little kids do, you know, “do that again!” But to my chagrin, that was the first and the only kiss I ever got from that young lady.

But if it could ever be said that someone was doomed by a kiss, I guess that someone could be me. A door to stolen treasures, unexpected sensations, generous payloads, perhaps. All of that suddenly becomes a part of the experience of a young man whose life is already like a small boat being violently swayed by the torrents of a sea emotions that refuses to relent. Somehow, I managed to survive those turbulent times but not without scars.

Today, as I reflect back, I realize that I grew up in a world of “no-no’s.” Though I never doubted my parents’ love for me, I always doubted whether I was good enough to be the recipient of that love. All because I knew I could never measure up to the high standards of ethics and behavior they and the people around them expected of us kids.

I became terrified of God, His fierce anger and judgement. At that time, with just a little convincing, I could have become the most ardent legalist or moralist the world had ever seen. I was ready for picking by some fundamentalist system, but instead it was the grace of God that picked me.

When I was in my freshman year at the university I came to understand for the first time in my life that yes sin was devastating and pervasive in my life. I couldn’t escape its claws or shake its nefarious influence in everything from my thinking to my choice of how to spend my money. But instead of becoming a “crusader” for perfectionism, I became keenly aware of what the death of Christ really accomplished — an opportunity to be offered a clean slate, by the grace of God.

I understood what I had been rescued from — an egotistical life, a lopsided brain that only saw other people’s faults, a heart that only had room for my pitiful little plans, a way of life that looks at others who are committing egregious sins out there in the world and has the audacity to say, “At least I am not as bad as ‘those’ people.” God has redeemed me from all of that. In other words, my own struggles with sin have vaccinated me against this idea that somehow I am better than anybody else out there. Indeed, I feel like Paul, who told some hard core pagans who had just tried to offer sacrifices to him and Barnabas, “We too are humans just like you…” (Acts 14:15).

So when I read Paul in Romans 6:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” I really understand that. I know that I am condemned regardless of how pedestrian my sin might be. When I read James 2:10,“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all,” I am tracking with this guy. I know that whether I steal one dollar or a million dollars, it’s not the amount of stealing but the act of stealing that makes me guilty before the law. And God, being perfect, could only accept a perfect solution for my sin problem; therefore, Jesus was put on the cross, and not Ivanildo or even the Dalai Lama. Jesus alone could satisfy God’s demand for justice.

Finally, in my older years, I have discovered that the more vividly I can describe what I have been rescued from, the more precisely I can articulate the nature of the devastation sin has caused in my life, the more brutally honest I can be with myself about my own propensity to sin, and the less prone I am to point my fingers at others, the more excited I will be to serve my Rescuer with unremitted love, out of a spirit of gratitude that is unsurpassed.

Frankly, my friends, that is one the “secrets” of my joy. Just like it was for an unnamed woman whose life intersected with Jesus one night when He was having dinner in the home of a Pharisee named Simon. That story is found in Luke 7 and I hope you will come to church this Sunday and hear me talking about it. I think the lessons from this woman have the potential to rock your world. Or at least shake your foundations a little.

And God knows we are in desperate need of some good shaking for His sake.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade