Like a dragon, sin cannot be managed or tamed. It must be put to death.
I recently picked up Kazuo Ishiguro’s fantasy novel The Buried Giant. It’s a tale of an elderly couple on a journey to reunite with their long lost son. The only problem is they don’t really remember him. In fact, they can’t remember much at all.
The she-dragon, Querig, has caused “a mist” to fall upon the land, and no one escapes its amnesic effect. Many other characters including a daring warrior, a mysterious young boy, and an elderly knight of the Arthurian era eventually join the elderly couple on their quest. After many twists and turns and brief separations, they all meet again at the mouth of the she-dragon’s lair.
Finally, a great truth is revealed. “The mist” of Querig which hides memories like those of the elderly couple’s child also obscures a troubling history of bloodshed. It is, in fact, the cause of the temporary peace between Britons and Saxons in this land. Should someone slay Querig, war between neighbors is inevitable. As the one who guards the lair intimates, is it not better to let sleeping dragons lie?
Those of us in the real world face an all too similar dilemma. Is unblinking admission of our sins really worth all the shame and guilt? Better to push those things to the side and move along in life.
But this is a false peace. It’s one that we can maintain only through lies, self-medication, or distractions. And like leaving a wound untreated, we let our unconfessed sins fester and invite decay.
We need spiritual medicine to treat our sins. We need to slay the dragon.
Thankfully, such a daring endeavor is not left to us. Amazingly, the Lord has graciously done as much in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who died and was raised to life so that you can have new life.
But submitting to the gospel is scary, sort of like how facing a dragon is scary because the call of the gospel is a call to confront the sin in our life. Like a dragon, sin cannot be managed or tamed. It must be slain.
In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul writes to a church to encourage them in such a task,
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
No doubt we risk much when we choose to follow Christ. Old habits must be broken; the quick gains of deceit and once enjoyed pleasures of sexual immorality let go. For these are hollow comforts; dark shadows of true happiness. But the overwhelming joy of eternal life is worth even the worst of these temporary discomforts.
Much like Querig’s death does not mean the end of toil in The Buried Giant, neither does putting on the new cloak of Christ mean an immediate end to all conflict and complaints. Forgiveness will need to be readily offered in Christian community,
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whereas Querig’s death likely results in war, the Gospel promises reconciliation. Unlike fantasy novels, the effect of the gospel is real. There is real hope in “perfect harmony” with God and neighbor. We can trust in the perfect “peace of Christ” that all things will be made new, the dragon really destroyed, and all things living happily ever after.
Robert Hasler is the Director of Communications for Ministry to State and co-host of The Will & Rob Show.