Years ago I read a question and answer session with Tim Keller over a social media platform. Answers were fairly abbreviated so it was difficult to always get the entire response. One person asked Keller why he (the one asking the question) was dealing with anger issues when it came to his newborn son. Apparently this person would be very upset about things that a newborn naturally does and has no real control over. Keller’s response was interesting, he said that this young father was most likely dealing with issues of idolatry and that he needed to rid himself of the idolatry before he would overcome his issues with anger with his new child.
As I said, this is the social media platform so it was very abbreviated in the answer. To be honest with you it really didn’t make much sense. I didn’t understand how idolatry and anger towards a newborn child crying were really connected. It wasn’t until recently when I was reading a book by Paul David Tripp that things began to come together. Tripp says this “Because sin is antisocial, it tends to dehumanize the people in our lives. No longer are they objects of our willing affection. No, they quit being the people we find joy in loving.
Rather, they get reduced to one of two things. They are either vehicles to help us get what we want or obstacles in the way of what we want. When your wife is meeting your wants, needs, and feelings, you are quite excited about her, and you treat her with affection. But when she becomes an obstacle in the way of your wants, needs, and feelings, you have a hard time hiding your disappointment, impatience, and irritation.”
It’s finally clear to me what Keller was talking about. Sin in our lives turns us inward. With sin there is no love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This young father was struggling through something that, from experience, I believe many people struggle with when it comes to being given a new task: the center of our universe is greatly rocked. Idolatry can come in the form of selfishness, greed, or ambition that is not driven by the Holy Spirit. When our needs are not being met, the sin in our lives creates barriers that we each react to in different ways. As Tripp says, sin is antisocial. It doesn’t lay down its life for a friend (John 15:13), rather it demands that you bend to my will, my wants, my desires. It doesn’t appreciate the way that someone else was created unless that creation fits our needs and wants. Sin reduces our ability to see what’s going on around us as an opportunity to show love and grace as well as an opportunity to grow in community (church, family, friendships, etc.).
Jesus could have chosen to ignore the sin and suffering of humanity and never entered the world, but instead he chose to come to alter the lives of those he came to save. He fed empty stomachs and broken souls, he gave strength to crippled feet and torn apart hearts, and he raised the dead and gave us eternity with God after death. Jesus existed in community from the beginning and came to restore humanity to community with God. In doing so he set a communal example for us that sin tries to tear down by placing ourselves at the center of the universe and isolating us from even those closest to us. Keep God at the center of your universe, be transformed by the gospel, and watch in amazement as God chooses to use you in the lives of others!