Chained Down by Sin

The Devil made me do it. I couldn’t help myself. You have no idea how strong the temptation was that made me sin. These are all common excuses for sin. We have all used them because we have all been weak. We have all sinned, but there is a better way.

About that time, Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church. The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Wrap your mantle around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. And Peter came to himself, and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Acts 12.1-11

Today the Church commemorates the miracle of the breaking of the chains from Saint Peter. After having been chained and put in prison, and angel lead him out of jail and returned Saint Peter to the Church.

At some point we all feel like we are chained down by sin and temptation. We feel helpless against the forces of evil that keep us down. The truth is, we allow ourselves to be put into the chains of sin. We somehow comfort ourselves with the excuse that we are too weak to break the chains, so we remain chained in sin.

In one way we are correct. We cannot do it alone. We have Christ and the Church to help us. As I was taught, the first step to every sin is thinking we will always be strong enough to say ‘no’ to temptation. The first step to avoiding every sin is to set up a system of protection to help us in our weakness.

Addicts use ‘anchors’ to remind them of their commitment never to return to substance abuse. Addicts are taught to avoid situations in which the temptation to ‘use’ would be too great to fight. The same is true for sin. We are addicted to sin.

If we want to break the chains of sin, we must avoid situations in which we will be too weak to say ‘no’. As Orthodox Christians our ‘anchor’ should be an icon of Christ. Do you have a porn addiction? Place icons of Christ on your computer to remind you there is a better way. Do you often fall into road rage? Have an icon of Christ in your car to remind you there is a better way.

You get the idea. Set up a new way of life designed to avoid as much temptation as possible. “Lead us not into temptation.” These words from the Lord’s Prayer are not by accident.

This doesn’t mean we must all become hermits. Instead of being hermits, we just need to be more intentional with our battle against sin. When God sends His angels to remove the chains of sin, run away from temptation and back to the Church. Run back to your spiritual father for Holy Confession, and fresh start.

We cannot avoid all temptation, but we can avoid being chained down by sin. The chains are broken at every confession. They are broken every time we turn back to Christ in repentance. They are broken every Liturgy we attend. The only time we remain chained down in sin, is when we don’t fight back. So, fight back with God’s help.

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