2018-03_LT-SinIsFun

Admit it. No one would sin if it felt like getting hit with a taser.

There’s something about the thrill of watching something you know you shouldn’t, the pride of thinking you’re better than someone else, the power of saying something nasty about someone you don’t like that feels good.

Even the Bible admits sin is fun. The Book of Hebrews talks about enjoying “the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). Of course, the key word in that passage is “fleeting.” Sin presents itself as enjoyable, fulfilling, and exactly what we need. But the fun doesn’t last.

Anyone who has gone down this road knows what I’m talking about. You give in to temptation and it feels good, for a while. But eventually, you have to face what you’ve done and in that moment, all you’re left with is emptiness.

Despite knowing and even experiencing this, we are still attracted to sin. We compare our life of church and youth group to a life of hook-ups and partying and sometimes it feels like we’re the ones missing out.

And then, if you’re anything like me, you feel guilty about even wanting those things. I love God and I love being a Catholic, but I still find myself drawn to sin. Why?

Concupiscence

To find the answer, we have to go all the way back to Genesis. When God first created humankind, there was harmony. All of our bodily desires were ordered toward the good of our souls.

In the beginning, all of the things we’re attracted to, even though we know they’re bad for us – things like lust, gluttony, and laziness – didn’t have the appeal they do today. How much easier would it have been to be holy without these temptations?!

We’ll never know because Adam and Eve ruined it for us. Tempted by the serpent, they abandoned their trust in God and disobeyed His commandment not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). This was the first sin, the “original sin,” and it shattered the harmony between our bodily desires and souls.

Exactly how the effects of this sin were passed down to all of humankind is a mystery, but the result is that we now feel this attraction to sin, known as “concupiscence.”

It isn’t that we’ve been completely corrupted. At our core, all human beings are still inherently good. But like Adam and Eve, we’re often tempted to believe that something other than God will satisfy us.

Understanding Sin

Temptation wants us to believe sin is better than what God has given us; if we just give in, we’ll have more fun, more pleasure, more satisfaction. But in the end, we’re always left feeling empty because we were not created to live a life of sin. We were created to live in relationship with God.

The Church teaches that if we want to fully understand sin, we have to first understand our profound relationship with God. The desire to love God and know His infinite love is written on our hearts. But when we sin, we turn away from God.

This was Adam and Eve’s mistake. In spite of everything God gave them, they chose to eat from the one tree God told them not to eat from. They stopped trusting God; they stopped believing God’s way was the best. Then, when their loving Creator came looking for them, they hid in shame.

Sins aren’t sinful because they are “bad” or “dirty.” Sins are sins because they gradually destroy our connection with God and others.

Shifting Our Focus

So how do we avoid letting the effects of original sin take over our lives? How do we overcome our attraction to sin?

When St. Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the Romans, he encouraged them to “hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Notice the words that Paul used. Paul didn’t just tell the Romans to “avoid what is evil” or “try your best not to think about what is evil.” He told them to hate it.

From personal experience, I can tell you it’s not enough to just try and push tempting thoughts out of your mind. After all, if I said, “whatever you do, don’t think about a sparkly pink elephant,” what’s the first thing you would think about? A sparkly pink elephant!

If you’re still buying into the lies that make sin attractive, it doesn’t matter how hard you try to resist, temptation is always going to come back around. Willpower isn’t enough. Instead, we have to shift our focus and “hold fast to what is good.”

Have you ever been so focused on something, maybe listening to music on your headphones as you walk along, that you totally missed someone trying to get your attention?

That’s how we beat temptation! When we are so focused on deepening our relationship with God and loving the people around us, it’s virtually impossible for temptation to get a foothold in our lives.

Holiness is Joyful

At the end of the day, there’s only one reason you should walk away from the sin or temptation that is occupying your life right now: God’s way is better.

Think about the moments in your life that have given you the greatest, lasting joy. What are they? Some of mine, off the top of my head, are the service trip to a village in Fiji during my senior year of high school, speaking at a Catholic youth festival last year, and going back home to spend Christmas with my family.

Gossiping about someone behind their back, getting drunk at a party, and having a meaningless hook-up with someone don’t make the list. These are all things I’ve done in my past, but they aren’t things that left me with any true, lasting satisfaction or joy. Even though sin seemed so attractive in the moment, it left me feeling empty.

Pursuing holiness, on the other hand, has filled my life with incredible joy. Often, it can feel like holiness is this very serious thing – it’s all fasting, silent prayer, and grim-faced determination. But in reality, holiness is joyful! It’s fun in a way that sin never can be because at the end of whatever you’re doing – whether it’s going to youth group, helping out in your community, or spending time with a friend – there’s no emptiness, only fulfilment.

Holiness frees us to live a life that’s focused on becoming the best person we can be, loving the people around us, and, above all, loving a God who will always love us more.

I’ll take that over the fleeting pleasures of sin any day.

About the Author

Sam Brebner

Sam is a university student all the way from the sunny shores of New Zealand. He studies law, theology, and the long-term effects of excessive caffeine intake on the human body (his). Sam loves to surf, he’s passionate about seeing young people become everything God created them to be, and sometimes he writes about himself in third person. Follow him on Twitter (@SamuelBrebner).