Sunday, 28 February 2016

Assurance of salvation: When Prince meets Kong Hee.

Last week's Straits Times was about two leaders. One is the leader of the Vatican City and the other is the leader of the real estate world. Both command a huge following. One is rich in the spirit and the other in possessions. One is the leader of the Catholic World and the other longs to be the leader of the Free World. And their paths met at a not so cordial crossroad.

Pope Francis made this remark recently about Donald Trump, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” He was referring to Trump’s proposals to build a wall with Mexico and to proceed with deportation. This was the Republican’s nominee’s reply, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and, as president, I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened.

Donald Trump further added, “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), which as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump were president, because this would not have happened.” And the Vicar of Christ continued with this admonishment, “Vote, don’t vote, I won’t meddle. But I simply say, if he says these things, this man is not a Christian.

Lesson? I have one but I would veer away from the above heated debate and talk about something of particular interest to Christians. The Pope's remarks about Trump kept me wondering about the assurance of salvation. When does a Christian cease to be a Christian? Or was he even a Christian to begin with?  

I asked this because sometimes you cannot really tell if one is authentically transformed after the sinner's prayer (without the benefit of hindsight of course). Worse still, he may demonstrate all the outward signs of a Christian but none of its innermost transformation. And any growth after the altar call is predominantly about the nurturing of self (to the total neglect of the disciplines/chastisement of the Spirit).

And on the assurance of salvation, this is where Joseph Prince comes in. His is a tale of two categories of Christians.  Let me start with the first category.

I once read these words in his book "Grace Revolution" - I call them the first category of Christians: 

"You may know of some people who had attended church for some time, then broke away and started to live a sinful lifestyle with no desire to repent and no interest in listening to counsel of the church's leadership. Some of them may even have gone on to embrace another belief system...How can these people be believers of Jesus Christ? Have these people lost their salvation? I submit to you that in some extreme cases, these people might not have accepted Christ into their hearts in the first place. It is not a case of believers losing their salvation; the reality is these people may never been saved in the first place." (underlined mine)

Here comes the second category expounded by the Prince of Preachers.

A friend recently posted this video on his Facebook about Joseph Prince’s interpretation of Matthew 7:13-14, which reads, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” While this verse is traditionally accepted as a warning to Christians or believers to always keep watch and pray lest they too fall, Joseph Prince has the following revised good news for all.

He preached that many have misinterpreted this verse and this has led them to think that their heavenly abode is not a sure thing. Joseph Prince was therefore eager to correct his so-called wrong theology. In the gospel according to Joseph Prince, "innumerable multitudes" will find their eternal rest in heaven (as interpreted by him in Revelation). Here is how he interprets Matthew 7 above.

The broad way that leads to destruction is not hell – so says the radical grace pastor. On the contrary, he said that it refers to our life on earth, not eternal condemnation. As such, it is not talking about spiritual destruction. In fact, he preached that “many Christians are on this broad way that is leading them to a financial, marital, emotional and physical destruction. But once you have received Christ, you are saved forever.” (underlined again mine)

At one point, Joseph Prince even said that “there are many believers  on the wrong road, but they will still be in heaven because they have Christ. Amen.” 

He then likened the “narrow gate” to Noah’s Ark’s narrow door and elaborated as such: “Jesus Christ is that door…and salvation is the Ark. Christ is the Ark…Everyone must bow down and go through that door…regardless of rich or poor. If you call that narrow, call me narrow…Something in life, God wants you to be narrow because that’s the only way.” (Wow, that's a lot to take in and process - especially his reinterpretation of the narrow-door of the Ark!)

From the above, based on Joseph Prince's preaching, I take it that there are two categories of Christians. One is the never-saved (because they have never accepted Jesus into their hearts) and the other is the always-saved (even though they are on the “wrong road” - that is, the broad way of personal destruction; obviously from making wrong personal choices and presumably, continuing to make them).

So, this brings me back to the questions I'd asked at the start: When does a Christian cease to be a Christian? Or was he even a Christian to begin with?  

Chesterton once said that "the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried." If that is so, are some believers then “saved” only in name (as a card-carrying Christian) and remain unredeemed in thoughts and deeds and they merely continue to project a form of salvation and not its substance, the hollow image of it and not its power?

And in some extreme cases, do they fall under Joseph Prince's category of "never been saved in the first place"? Food for thought?

Now let’s push the scenario a little. Let’s dogmatize Joseph Prince's two categories, turn it into a complacent standard, and apply it to these three personalities who had recently fronted the media: 

(1) Kong Hee;
(2) Israel Houghton; and 
(3) Donald Trump. 

While Kong Hee and that President-wannabe need no further introduction, Israel Houghton would require some background intro.

Israel Houghton is a Grammy-award gospel singer-songwriter and have led many in praise and worship in Joel Osteen’s Church and his international television network. Recently, and unfortunately, he announced his divorce after 20 years of marriage. He repented and admitted that “several years ago I failed and sinned in my marriage. Though this is new to many, it is not new to us as we have been working through this for over 5 years. Although we tried, the challenges in our relationship have proven too much to overcome.” 

Before you read further, here's my preface. Nothing is more encouraging than the demonstration of a broken spirit and a contrite heart and I wish Israel Houghton all the best in His love and redemption. My point, however, has to do with Joseph Prince’s standard of salvational assurance (that is, his two categories of Christians – the “never-saved” and the “always-saved”).

And if I apply that standard, I wonder whether Kong Hee, Israel Houghton and Donald Trump would make the cut? Of course, Israel Houghton had repented and his is a resounding “yes”. No one is perfect right? I admit that this is rather arbitrary and some may say juvenile. But, please indulge me as my point will come at the end of this post.

Now, how about Donald Trump, all his antics and the kerfuffle? Well, apart from what the Pope had said earlier tongue-in-cheek, another pastor of a mega-church has come forward recently to add to the chorus of disapproval. Pastor Max Lucado minces no words here: “If he’s going to call himself a Christian one day and call someone a bimbo the next or make fun of somebody’s menstrual cycle, it’s just beyond reason to me…It would be none of my business, I would have absolutely no right to speak up except that he repeatedly brandishes the Bible and calls himself a Christian.” 

So, with some good measure of levity here, if the Pope and Lucado had their way, maybe Donald Trump might just come under Joseph Prince’s first category of the “never-saved”? (Alas, at the rate he is going, he may just be the "savior" and destroyer of politics and democracy altogether).

How about Kong Hee? Is he "never-saved" or "always saved"? Well, this is a tough one. On the one hand, he has yet to come forward to admit his wrong. Unlike Israel Houghton, who has confronted his sin and repented (which will no doubt be a trying but rewarding journey for him), Kong Hee’s only “apology” is to apologize to his congregation for the inconvenience caused (so to speak). Pending his appeal, he has admitted no wrong. As far as he and his wife are concerned, they were merely following divine orders. On the other hand, Kong Hee is clearly guilty and convicted of misappropriation and dishonesty.

So, how do I apply Joseph Prince’s standard then? Which category of Christian does Kong Hee fall under in JP’s book – the “never-saved” or the “always-saved”? 

At this juncture, it would be of some assistance here to cross-reference Joseph Prince’s words about the never-saved category:

You may know of some people who had attended church for some time, then (1) broke away and started to live a sinful lifestyle with (2) no desire to repent and (3) no interest in listening to counsel of the church's leadership. Some of them may even have gone on to (4) embrace another belief system...How can these people be believers of Jesus Christ? Have these people lost their salvation? I submit to you that (5) in some extreme cases, these people might not have accepted Christ into their hearts in the first place. It is not a case of believers losing their salvation.”

Now, if I would to squeeze the hermeneutic elephant into the never-saved refrigerator, I may be able to come up with these obtuse associations from those words I have underlined above:-

1)    Broke away and started to live a sinful lifestyle.” Some quarters of the Christendom may readily come forward to accuse Kong Hee of breaking away from what is generally acceptable as the proper limits of evangelism and his Crossover project - where he and his wife had compromised the gospel in an attempt to spread it (in scantily dressed gyrations, promiscuity-themed video and controversial lyrics) - may be seen by some as the perpetuation of a “sinful lifestyle”. But I guess this is a long shot.

2)    No desire to repent.” I think this is the only “glove that fits” here.

3)  No interest in listening to counsel of the church's leadership.” I understand that some pastors from the other churches have privately approached Kong Hee to offer good counsel to him before things got out of hand. But I heard he had declined their advice. Anyway, this has yet to be confirmed. So, it is another no-go.

4)  “Embrace another belief system.” Of course, Joseph Prince must have in mind the recanting or renunciation of one’s belief/faith. It is more like voluntarily converting to another faith, or worse still, blindly swearing allegiance to the cult of Satanism until one’s death. So, Kong Hee is quite safe here. And finally…

5)  “In some extreme cases.” I guess this is the crux. In Joseph Prince’s world, only the very rare cases would miss heaven altogether. So, save for his refusal to take full responsibility as the leader of the Church and come before his Savior with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, Kong Hee would qualify under JP’s second category, that is, he is always-saved. Alas, I guess by JP's standard, you can be on the wrong road or broad way, and still go to heaven because you have Christ in your heart. And if the road to hell is paved with good intention, then maybe the road to heaven is paved with the wrong action?

In the end, I believe that when it comes to the assurance of salvation, no one can ever claim to be an authority without lapsing into the arrogant flight of the rigid and judgmental spirit. Like it or not, only God knows. And let’s keep it that way – note to self. Cheerz.

The Madonna controversy and Jesus' advocacy.

This Friday’s news is about Madonna…again, and her concert tonight  is getting all the publicity thanks to the media drawing out the opposing views about her.
In an article "Agreeing to disagree in matters of religion" by Lim Yan Liang, he asked for understanding on both sides of the divide. He quoted MP Alex Yam who wrote in his FB, "Just like any parent or older sibling, even if it makes him unpopular or seem naggy, he must state what he feels is needed in the context of faith that Catholic need to follow. And, like any elder, hopes the flock listens."
He also quoted a Professor (theologian Graham Ward) who has this to say about religion: "All religions have the potential to become ideologies that brook no tolerance of complexity and other perspectives, indoctrinating their members into the purity of their own practices and belief systems, and in this way radicalizing them."
Lesson? Who are we kidding? The concert will go on. It will definitely be a blast. The fans and super-fans will soak up the electrifying atmosphere - whether it is sacrilegious or not, sexually aggressive or not.
It will be a concert worth going for for those who are attending. And there is nothing the Catholic Archbishop, the prelate council or the humble Pope can do about it.
Some churches may organize vigils tonight and prayer sessions against it, but I doubt there will be any divine intervention in the likes of the 10 plagues of Egypt.
Come to think about it, positive defiance (on both sides) is actually not all bad. Think along the lines of Schumpeter's creative destruction for businesses and the economy and transposed that boundary-redefining spirit to society at large.
It is said that the only thing bad about a society is her lack of oppositional consciousness, diversity, the courage to stand for what one believes in, tolerance and acceptance across all segments, and a sense of understanding that transcends race, language and religion. And the Madonna controversy has smoked out many views for and against that has deepened our understanding of culture, its values and society as a whole. In the end, it is the ones who are open-minded that benefit most.
However, and this has to be said, every good thing or belief suffers the curse of the Midas' touch. A sweep of the human history will easily vindicate this. When a belief - whether religious or non-religious - takes on a voracious self-righteous attitude and craves to leave every nook and cranny of the society untouched, it turns into an insidious dogma with dire social consequences. The misguided intention to turn everything gold in turns turns everything deadly cold.
So, what is the overriding lesson here? To live and let live? To let it be?
I see two scenarios played out here and I will juxtaposition the two additional news last Friday morning to make my point. I believe they represent some form of extremism. One is about a death and the other about an inspiration. One turns out deadly and the other amusing.
At one end is a man, 37, who was fatally stabbed at a Hougang coffee shop by a 50-year-old shop assistant. The unfortunate incident started with this words from the younger man to the older man: "What are you staring at?" This can be extrapolated to some part of society where homophobia writs large (and this is equally applicable to other parts of society where LGBTs readily show their intolerance for Christians who are standing by their beliefs).
The other news is about a super-fan of Madonna. Abdul Rahman loves Madonna to pieces and she literally changed his life. His adoration for her peaked beyond normal fanfare devotion. He even adopted her lyrics as his life mantras. He said: "Like her song, Express yourself, she says if you don't express what you feel or if you don't say what you want, then you're not going to get it."
Rahman wanted more than anything to meet Madonna face to face. He said, "Every fan would love to meet and take pictures with her, to know her, to touch her - but it's not easy, so I won't hope for that. To see her live is enough. To even have her wink at me is enough." Herein ends the two unusual news and the start of my commentary.
I think we can have a society that is triggered off by a stare or a society that is enamored by a wink. One is obviously destructive and the other can be seen as harmless.
In the end, the controversial queen of pop is somehow right you know, that is, we should all express ourselves in the same way the Archbishop had expressed his views (like a father sharing with his children with some parental authority) and the way I write my views on this platform.
They are not perfect views. They do not boast of finding a cure-all for everything. Sometimes, the view may hint of being somewhat pretentiously panacea-ish. Bottom-line? I believe no one has a perfect fit of an answer to society’s ill and no one should even try to market his ideology as the fount of all authority. History has shown that disaster's middle name is "I am always right." 
But I do believe in enlarging one's circle of influence and I take my lead from Jesus - not so much as a savior (for those religiously sensitive) but as a leader who just know how to touch lives for good, and forever.
His is not a Midas' touch but a miraculous one. Encounters with him were always intimate, empowering and transforming. His secret I guess is to express himself - so to speak. And he did it all by giving of himself completely. I believe with all my heart that his sacrifice made all the difference. That's how all great men of history changed history. That’s how Jesus changed the world – not with words alone, but through love and action. Cheerz.

My haphazard reflection about the prosperity preachers.

My haphazard reflection about the prosperity preachers.

Can anyone explain to me the prosperity gospel? Is it more about the prosperity or the gospel? Is it about the gospel of Success or about the success of the Gospel? Is it all that simple? Really, just have faith, and all's well and ends well? 

How sincere is the preacher when he preaches to thousands about God's plans for prosperity for all? I know this is written in the scripture but is it applicable to all and sundry? Is it a one-size-fits-all for a one-fit-that-sizes-up-all? Is the preacher missing out something here? Is he deliberately avoiding what's lurking behind door number 3? 

Can he look into the face of the dying and promise him that healing is coming? In fact, nothing has ever stopped the prosperity preacher from telling everyone regardless that their healing has already arrived. It is the same here with their prosperity, their material possessions, and their blessings from the heavenly storehouses. They are all stocked up and ready to go - so they exclaimed. Just believe and you shall receive! This is the hundredfold faith of the prosperity preacher. 

Yet, the reality of things seems too slow to catch up with the oral proclamations of the confident preacher. Somehow, the delay can be unnerving for a lot of believers. Has the message of prosperity got lost in translation? Has the preacher skipped the fine red print of the gospel for the big-print promises of health and wealth? Have we traded in substance for form?

Maybe it is about timing? Maybe it is about waiting upon the Lord? Maybe it is about keeping watch and pray? Is this "maybe" then the so-called faith that the prosperity preacher is hollering about every Sunday? If so, where is his trademark confidence when he preaches on Sabbath with beaming authority, and for the rest of the week, he juggles restlessly with probability? Where then is that Jericho shout of assurance when he stands behind the pulpit all decked up with flowing scriptural promises that fire up the imagination of the congregation and whet their appetite for more earthly gains? 

Alas, if the world of the prosperity gospel is like a giant adoption center, am I the only orphan left in the compound whom everyone has walked by? And if the world of the prosperity gospel is like the lottery jackpot where everyone is holding the winning ticket, am I then the only one holding the losing numbers? Am I too dumb or too thick in the head to fully appropriate the prosperity blessings? Am I standing in my own way? 

Sometimes I wonder, why is it taking the prosperity gospel world so long (and counting) for all her believers to name and claim their prosperity when it is as simple as naming and claiming them? Is it a case of only-when-stock-lasts and the blessings are delivered in batches on a first-come-first-serve basis? 

For this reasons, are those who come later destined to wait indefinitely to receive their blessings? And strangely, the only thing guaranteed in this glittering world is that the ones who are served first are often the prosperity preachers themselves? Mm...did those who are still mired in anything but prosperity draw the short end of the stick? 

So, after all said, can anyone explain the prosperity gospel to me? Can the believers explain to me how it all works? Because the last time I checked, the one who hung on the Cross clearly promised us that as He has overcome, we will overcome too. 

However, I don't think He talked about prosperity the way the zealous prosperity preacher had preached about it. He definitely did not guarantee unbridled prosperity as we walk by faith in His Spirit and in Truth. 

Anyhow, here's a thought from a thick skull as I end. Maybe to be truly rich in God is not about how much I possess. But it is about how much I am changed by His love and sacrifice. And that has always been my Savior's currency that surpasses all the prosperity promises those wealthy preachers are touting about. Cheerz.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Joe Prince's Perfect Healing World.

Recently, I stumbled upon Joseph Prince’s online sermonette. He started with Matthew 8:3
3 which reads, “Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

Here comes an extract of his explanatory note:-

Do you know that it is God’s will for you to be healed? In fact, Jesus always healed the sick who came to Him. The blind, lame, maimed, mute, deaf and demon-possessed — He healed them all! (Matthew 8:16).

Joseph Prince then went on to say that Jesus “never gave sickness to anybody. You never find Jesus looking at a person, a fine specimen of a man, and saying, “Come here. You are too healthy. Receive some leprosy!” In fact, when a leper came to Him for healing, Jesus, full of compassion, told the leper, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

Now you must understand that his sermonette was written to address the misconception about God and sicknesses. He wrote that some Christians think that it is God’s will for them to be sick. He banished this thought with this conclusion: “Come on, what makes perfect sense is this: God wants you well. He wants you whole. His will is for you to be healed!...So my friend, if you are sick, know that God did not give you the disease. Read every healing miracle that Jesus did in the Gospels and see how Jesus is the Lord who heals you. (Exodus 15:26) Hear His gracious words, “I am willing, be healed,” and know that they are as much for you today as they were for the leper!””

- The End -

Joseph Prince’s message kept me thinking – especially that part about the “perfect sense” of absolute healing in our fallen world where sicknesses and death are as common as raindrops and nightfall. At this point, I wonder, What a world where God heals absolutely will be like? Here is how I imagine it will flesh out…(it's just one scenario of many I guess)

What if every prayer for healing comes to pass? There is no exception. When a pastor lays his hands, and prays for full recovery, regardless of the illness or disease, the person prayed for is supernaturally delivered and certified by doctors to be healed. No delay. No remission. No condition. This is the world I imagine. This is what crossing over to the supernatural means. What a world it would be!

Imagine the rousing faith, the clamoring crowd and the enduring impact! And this power to heal is not restricted to pastors, church elders and ministry leaders, mind you, but layman, usher, musician, choir member, interpreter, you name it, are heartily included. It is in fact freely given and freely received.

Of course, you will have to believe by faith, but other than that, God will do the rest. You can say that God had lowered the bar for all. It used to be the inscrutable  mustard seed of faith that moves mountain. Now it is faith of the meagerness of a photon or an electron. It is a subatomic conviction with an atomic manifestation. It is therefore a supernatural act accessible to and for all and not just in the church or in a miracle tent rally. You can take this as the definitive Reformation movement of healing where layperson of all walks of life and ages are bestowed the gift of healing unconditionally.

With this healing explosion, the services of the medical experts are immediately made redundant. Doctors will have to look for alternative employment. Millions of dollars spent on medical equipment and technology will be put to disuse. Although many will mourn for the medical profession, even more will rejoice at the universal harvest of healing across the globe.

Hospital will be emptied. First aid kits abandoned. Pharmacies shut down. Drug companies filing for bankruptcies. And medical innovation coming to a standstill.

With miracles happening at such rampancy, immediacy and spontaneity, I can expect shouts of joy and celebration of hope. Families will grow stronger and the Christian faith will be lifted high like banners in the sky. Even atheists would have to join the revolution of faith and denounce their once godless lifestyle. 

With healing that are not only immediate and complete, but also enduring throughout one's life, we can expect the publishing in the obituary page to be less frequent. Premature death will be rarer and people will be less concerned with health and more focused on eating what they like without worry. Obesity and heart attack will no longer be linked since any link will be broken with intercession.

Cancer will be like the common cold where what is prescribed is the laying of hands rather than a battery of invasive tests and draining chemotherapy. Transplant surgeries will be nonexistent since faith works infinitely better than waiting for a suitable donor. And you can expect war veterans to return with missing limbs fully replaced not with prosthetic but by earnest supplications.

On an even brighter side, I foresee the black market for organs and the illegal means by which they are harvested to be a thing of the past. Who needs a donor-organ when it can be grown back anew by focused utterances?

With money saved from such supernatural occurrences, the government will be able to channel the additional funds to other equally important projects like lifting poverty, investing in social and charity works, and fighting child trafficking, the sex and drug trade, and eradicating slum violence. The world will indeed be awashed in a perpetual state of blissful and robust physical health as no one is exempted from the universal privilege of absolute healing.

At last, mankind has defeated the one scourge that has plagued them since the beginning of time, that is, the dread of physical infliction and suffering as a prelude to death. And we can all bid farewell to euthanasia (or mercy killing) because mercy has finally dawned upon us in the eradication of the last trace of physical/medical devastation that had once toyed, teased and tortured us along the dark and long corridors of our fragile mortality. 

Then, at this point, my imagination became more restless. It whispered about a premonition that I had overlooked in my rejoicing and celebration. It took me by the hand firmly - yet coldly - and told me that perfect healing comes with a price. It has a hidden cost. It may just be a Trojan-horse invasion of sorts.

A world of absolute health will not stop with the living. For as Jesus raised Lazarus and Jarius' daughter from the grave, the faith-healers who were given carte blanche on healing of the ill and the afflicted in hospitals, infirmaries, geriatric homes and palliative care centers will be emboldened even more to perform the same miracle on the dead. For isn't it the case that "greater works than this shall we do?" Morgues and cemeteries will therefore be invaded with confidence and rejoicing.

I imagine a night vigil for mourning and remembrance to be immediately followed by a day-break celebration of the dead coming to life, putting on new flesh, and embracing loved ones whom they have not seen for years, even decades. The mantra may well be this: "Heaven de-populated and earth re-populated."

Alas, amidst the joy and the tears, the strange reunion will be of the most disconcerting kind. For what does one say to his or her great, great, great grandparents? What advice will the once-dead give to their modern-day descendants? In fact, raising the dead will just be the beginning of a very perplexing reconciliation across generations. Will the gap ever be closed?

Here is where my imagination turns even more disturbing. It showed me the intractable scourge of overpopulation, the rampant raid on scarce resources, the over-burdened earth, the increase in violence, the fight for landmass, the backlash of government policies on population control, the hording of resources, and God forbid, the secret culling of the excess population - an a la Darwinian-like eugenics - and the hiding of bodies to prevent the onslaught of healing hands.

In the midst of the chaos, I imagine God looking down from heaven and let out a deep Noah-like sigh. And then, I imagine a long pause before the decision to recall the healing privileges. With that, supernatural healing became selective, discretionary. With healing indulgences withdrawn, the dead can now die but just once and no more. Doctors got their licenses back. Medical technologies flourished once more. Patients re-admitted. Hospital were back to business, saving lives, pronouncing time of deaths. Pharmacies and drug companies reinstated. The obituary pages continued its daily publishing. The problem of runaway population growth kept under control. And the life of faith and hope returned to its pre-absolute-healing era. Naturally, this is followed closely by the resurgence of atheism, secularism and humanism calling for the delusion to be exposed.

Nevertheless, it was a raw reality of our world that is more manageable and less chaotic. No doubt it is a world where physical suffering would more often than not ravage the body before death, but it is a more predictable world – one where things quietly return to normal. And the natural laws are duly restored as before. Although it is a world we have been struggling with since we can remember, it is however a world where redemptive suffering has triumphantly returned after a long leave of absence.” Cheerz.

* Image of earth from "" 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

To sin boldly and honestly.

Martin Luther once said that we should sin boldly and honestly. The good theologian is not asking us to sin with tassels and streamers so that the whole town will come to know about it. Sin is not to be celebrated but confronted. He is pleading for transparency after the act. He is asking us to be honest about it - to come clean. And in coming clean, we are to bear the full consequences of it.

While some of us sin due to a moment's folly - as a result of personal weakness - all of us are given a choice after the act. And Martin Luther is appealing to us to confront it bravely, with moral courage and remorse. Let me illustrate this with the tale of two lapses.

Both of them are my clients some years back. One of them admitted to me that he had slept with his subordinate and she was many years his junior. Till today, I can clearly remember his words to me, "Don't tell my wife." I asked him if she were to approach me one day and ask me about it out of suspicion, what should I tell her? With a deadpan look, he replied, "Lie to her. Or say I don't know." That was it. That was how he dealt with sin. He wanted to have the cake and eat it or the bed and sleep on it (both beds). Although the last time I checked, he had already broken off with his mistress, his wife knew nothing about it. She was blissfully unaware. To her, he is still his faithful husband.

My second client fell the same way my first client fell. But it was a one-off affair. It claimed he was led astray because he was neglected by his wife. He said his wife had been so busy with the kids that she had no time for him. And he felt so lonely and unwanted until someone gave him the attention he longed after. It was the hook (of attraction) that hid the bait (of marital indiscretion) and he bit into it. He took the bait. Hook, line and sinker. And it was down south from there.

Unlike my first client, who kept his infidelity from his wife, my second client told his wife. He had to let her know out of a sense of obligation. But this was the twist. He also blamed her. Whenever they argued, and she raised the issue, he kept reminding her that she had a part to play for his unfaithfulness. He blamed her for not giving him the attention he wanted.

From that day onwards, he did nothing to save the marriage. He didn't want to admit that he was fully responsible for his actions. His passivity soon estranged their relationship and it degenerated into a point of emotional divorce. 
That’s the two tales I wanted to share and here comes some personal narrative to flesh them out.

I read Martin Luther's admonishment to sin boldly and honestly with much reflection about my own life, my marriage, and my role as a father. This reflection led me to this: I find in me a greater sin than the sin of failing as a person, as a husband or as a father in a moment’s lapse of judgment or a sudden want of personal control (like in my two clients' case). I find that the greater sin is the sin of being invulnerable (or of keeping up with unyielding appearances). While all sins aim to break me, and to reform me if I come before the throne of mercy with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, the sin of invulnerability is sadly unbreakable. It is immune to remorse, self-reproach. It sees repentance as a sign of weakness. It feeds on the pride of the flesh.

And while the kindness of God leads us to salvation, the unkindness of one's heart (hardened by the egotism of invulnerability) leads one to rebellion. Where there is no open, full and unconditional acceptance of our fallibility, I believe there is no enduring repentance of our humanity.

With that, I return to my two clients and their follies. One of them covered it up and the other rationalized it away. One hid the truth and the other denied it completely. While we are all fallible at so many levels, nothing makes us even more irrevocably so than to feed a heart of invulnerability, that is, a heart that refuses to accept the wrong we have committed against another.

For our fallibility is not beyond redemption unless of course we see no need for redemption in the first place. Indeed, to sin boldly and honestly is no easy feat. We struggle with it most notoriously. It is in fact the longest journey we will ever take from our head to our heart. And it takes nothing less than a mature spirit to accept full responsibility for what we have done with courage, honesty and integrity. Nothing less will do. Cheerz.