If we could see what God sees, we could follow the lineage of each sin back to the first sin in its line. We would see how it branched out into a family tree of sin that quickly became a forest. We could see how a sin committed in Philadelphia yesterday was already the fifth generation of a sin committed in L.A. the week before. Saint Paul put it this way (1Timothy 5:24): “The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.” What a nightmare it would be to see the sins you have done and the sins that were birthed because of it, waiting for you at the judgment, or following in a long line behind you! If we could see that, we wouldn’t sleep at night.
But sin not only follows us; it follows us with a hatchet. Sin commits patricide and matricide: it kills the people who brought it into existence. So James writes (ominously) that “sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” It is a horror story, and the horror is the greater because it is our story: the story of the monsters we engender and the destruction they cause.
But Jesus is the monster-slayer. God, the Bible teaches, sent his son Jesus Christ to save us “from our sins.” When we begin to see what that means, we will be awestruck. Jesus saves us. He makes things right, will make things new, and has already made it possible for us to get out of this horror story and into a “happily ever after” story.
In the “happily ever after” story, our good deeds give birth to good deeds, and they follow us to the judgment, not to kill us but to testify that we belong to Jesus. So, St. Paul says: “In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden” (1 Timothy 5:25). The humble, obedient Christian will one day be as astounded as anyone – more astounded – to see the good that God accomplished through him, and it will redound to his unbounded joy and God’s unending glory.