How do we look at our children? If they’re in school, then we certainly have an academic perspective of them. We keep up with how they’re doing, what their assignments are, and what their proficiencies are as well as what challenges them. We develop realistic expectations and encourage them to reach certain goals. But in the end no one needs to tell us that our children are more than the marks on their report cards. While we want them to do well in this area, we recognize that this is but one dimension of their lives.
Then of course, we think of our children in regard to their health. Are they getting enough sleep? Do they eat the right food and get plenty of exercise? We’re familiar with allergies or other issues that might affect them. And while we recognize that a healthy child is a wonderful blessing, no one would think that a sick child was any less important or loved. Our children are more than their physical status.
And then if you have children who are old enough and licensed to drive—well, just try not to think about them from that perspective! We understand that we have to release them to the road, but we try to do it in wise ways that align with their abilities. We start them off with small trips around town during the day. From there they advance to driving at night or maybe on the interstate. But whether they are the world’s safest driver or something less, we understand that our child is much more than their ability to operate a vehicle.
In the end of course we all recognize that our children are much more than their academic, medical or driving identities. We’re aware that trying to define them exclusively by any of these results in a shallow, terribly warped understanding. Our children are to be ultimately identified relationally—they are our son or daughter, part of our family. (Of course, they are even more God’s children, but for our purposes we’re confining things to a human parental perspective). So while they are many aspects to who are children are—above all else they are our children.
In the same way, there are different dimensions of sin that are pictured by the Scripture: it spoils things like leaven (1 Corinthians 5:6-8); it is an entrepreneurial pursuit that “pays off” in death (Romans 6:23); and it is a breaking of the law (1 John 3:4). All of these are helpful ways to think of sin but none of these represent it in a holistic way for what it truly is. Sin is also to be ultimately identified relationally—it is unfaithfulness to our Father.
After David has committed adultery with Bathsheba, found out she is pregnant and then cold-heartedly orchestrated the events that result in the killing of one of his mighty warriors (Uriah), Nathaniel the prophet pays him a visit to let him know that although no one else knows what is going on—it hasn’t escaped God’s attention. He is displeased with what David has done. David is convicted and pens Psalm 51 where he says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (v. 3-4). The prodigal son tells his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21). At its heart, sin is unfaithfulness and disloyalty to God.
This is important for many reasons but one we’re concerned with is that how we view sin affects and shapes how we look at the cross. For example, if sin is thought about by us in primarily or exclusively legal terms, then we will tend to view the cross as some type of legal transaction where our status is restored. We need to think holistically and understand that the cross is more than that—it is where we are restored.
The cross is glorious and expansive and needs to be seen by us this way.