Obstacles to Grace

'Lost and Found' by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission. http://www.GregOlsen.com
“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission. http://www.GregOlsen.com

November 20, 2022

Road to Damascus Women’s Retreat
November 2022

Once again, I have the opportunity to give this talk on Obstacles to Grace. It seems I get to give this talk a lot. Do you think they are trying to tell me something? I can talk about Faith and Grace but no, it’s Obstacles to Grace for me.

Kind of reminds me of a story.

Rich guy owned lots of land and livestock. Well respected and many came to him with disputes, and he settled them – like a king.

A preacher came to him with a case to get his opinion.

The preacher said there was a man who had everything – land, livestock, big house. He had lots of money and had parties and gatherings with many wealthy people.

On the edge of his property was a very small parcel of land where an old man lived. The old man had lost his wife and had no children. What he did have was a young lamb. He had found it abandoned and taken it home. He loved the lamb. He fed it from a bottle. It slept in his lap. It slept in his bed at night and played around his feet as he walked. The lamb was his life.

It happened that one day the rich man had a friend come to visit. He saw the lamb and told his men to slaughter it for his meal with the friend. The old man was devastated but the rich man cared nothing.

The preacher asked the rich man, “What would you do? How would you judge this?”

The rich man was incensed. He said the landowner should be punished – maybe even put to death. He asked who the man might be so he could have him brought before him.

The preacher said, “Sir, it was you.”

Do you recognize this story from Samuel? It is mind boggling to me. This is the story of Nathan, the prophet, going to King David and condemning him for what he had done to Uriah and Bathsheba.

How did David go from his anointing by Samuel to this story we hear? Samuel had been sent to Jesse’s home to find the next King of Israel. None of the great sons did God choose. Jesse was asked if he had any other sons and sent for his youngest, a frail, slender and beautiful young boy who was tending the sheep. When God saw him, he said, “Finally, a man after my own heart.” David was anointed and grew in stature and wisdom.

How then, do we get to this meeting? A meeting where his friend, the prophet Nathan must tell him the Evil he had done.

Uriah, a young Hittite who was very loyal to David as one of his Generals did nothing wrong – except marrying a beautiful young woman who stirred David’s lust when he saw her on a roof bathing.

For that, Uriah was sent to fight so that David was able to wear down the beautiful Bathsheba and got her pregnant. Like a coward hiding from his misdeeds David sent Uriah ahead of his armies into harm’s way  and Uriah was killed.

So, a man after God’s own heart was an adulterer and murderer.

David allowed himself to lose his self.

I chose this story because it has pretty much all the deadly sins which were first enumerated as seven by Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century. They are Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.

They are considered deadly because they endanger our souls. We know they are wrong, and they will separate us from God but choose to do them anyhow. It is what David did with Bathsheba and Uriah.

He committed a mortal sin which separates him from a relationship with God – knowingly choosing that path.

How does he get to the point of thinking nothing of committing adultery?

There are lesser sins which we know as venial sins. These are sins that we commit without aforethought. It’s like taking a pencil from someone because you need a pencil. You don’t tell the person you are taking it from because – it’s a pencil. No big deal – and honestly, on the grand scale, it isn’t. The person you took it from may not even care – because it’s just a pencil. How can that get us to the greater “mortal” sins?

It’s a matter of our disposition to sin. If we commit venial sins with no remorse they will lead to other sins. The pencil becomes someone’s money left out or that you see in your husband’s wallet or in a dish by the door. Not a big deal. What if you need something bigger? What’s to stop you? Your disposition toward sin has changed because it isn’t a big deal. When it then comes to a meeting with this guy for drinks – it’s no big deal. When you begin to feel something for them – it’s no big deal because you won’t let it go further. Then you find yourself alone with them and you kiss, which turns into more intimate contact and then it’s just this one time. Now, you have to lie to your spouse to cover for it. Next you find yourself in a place where you need to cover for something more.

This is how David became and adulterer and murderer. It is how a truly honorable young man died – not because of him but because David’s disposition toward sin had changed from his anointing by Samuel to his Kingship.

Mortal sins are so easy to fall into if we aren’t paying attention. David even had the Prophet Nathan. He was favored by God and yet he fell into sin.

He was slothful and he didn’t pay heed to how he was slipping into hedonism. He was wrathful and took out the fact this woman he found so appealing was married to one of his generals. Certainly, he was a glutton because he had harems of beautiful young girls, but he wanted Bathsheba. He was envious of Uriah for having Bathsheba. He lusted after Bathsheba. He was greedy because with all he had at his disposal he wanted to have Bathsheba also.

Each of these six mortal sins are like spokes on a wheel. They are nothing without something to attach to and radiate out from and that hub, that base, is – PRIDE.

If David had not had so much pride, he would never have gotten to where he found himself – facing Nathan – with the shame of what he had done and the lives he had ruined.

God said, “A man after my own heart.” Even then, David failed. God sent Nathan to reclaim David. David was reclaimed but he paid a price in his relationship with Absalom.

How do we avoid these seven sins which can kill our souls?

There are seven equally important VIRTUES. If we choose to live a virtuous life, we aren’t likely to ever fall into sin.

For each of the seven deadly there is a life-giving virtue.

For sloth there is diligence. We don’t allow sin in because we are aware of the dangers of our actions.

For wrath (anger) there is the virtue of patience. When that person cuts you off in traffic you don’t chase them down. You pray that whatever is going on in their life that God helps them to deal with it.

Gluttony is met with temperance which allows us to lessen our desire for overindulgence by tempering our desires.

Envy is offset by gratitude. Be thankful for what you have and not desirous of what others have. Ask for what you need – not what you want – and be at peace with what you have.

If you find yourself suffering from lust – practice chastity. Abstain from the desires that would drive you into sexual relations which could debase you. Avoid situations which put you into danger of falling into lust.

If you find yourself becoming greedy and wanting more and more simply turn toward charity and give to others who are in need. From your means give to all to help with their needs. It doesn’t need to be money. It could be possessions – two coats when others have none? Practice charity and avoid greed.

And like Pride is the Master of all the Deadly Sins – we have a Master of all Virtues. That master is HUMILITY. Where Pride drives you into the arms of Sin – Humility will drive you to feed the hungry, provide for the homeless, cloth the naked and WASH THE FEET OF YOUR SERVANTS.

The Obstacles to Grace are everywhere. You must be diligent. We know we can win this battle because we have the Virtues to guide us.

Choose to be virtuous.

De Colores

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