Simultaneously Saint and Sinner

I was listening to Johnny Cash on the way to work this morning, and the song Chunk of Coal came on. The first verse goes like this:

I’m just an old chunk of coal
But I’m gonna be a diamond some day
I’m gonna grow in glory
‘Til I’m so blue pure perfect
I’m gonna put a smile on everybody’s face
I’m gonna kneel and pray everyday
Lest I should become vain along the way
I’m just an old chunk of coal, now Lord
But I’m gonna be a diamond some day

I can relate to this song. I feel like just an old chunk of coal some days. I’d much rather be a beautiful diamond, and some day I will be. God is transforming me day by day into something so much better than I once was or am now.

But how does a chunk of coal become a diamond? Does it just magically transform with no effort from something worth very little to something worth a great deal? Well, I did a Google search to find out, and discovered this information on Wiki Answers:

Firstly, coal does not become diamond anywhere in nature. What follows is simply the answer to the question.

The carbon atoms have to be re-arranged into a new pattern. Coal (graphite) and diamond are of course both primarily carbon. Graphite (coal) has the atoms arranged where they are connected on horizontal planes, but not on vertical planes. . . 

[T]o change their atomic ordering into diamond requires high heat and high pressure. The heat breaks down the current bonds to free up the carbon atoms, and energize them to bond covalently (very tight atomic bond formed by sharing an electron) and the pressure helps the carbon atoms form in an ordered and tightly packed fashion…the result is the atoms are re-ordered into a pattern that looks like pyramids stacked together . . . and it is now diamond.

A couple of points jumped out at me in this explanation that bear on using the process of turning coal into diamonds as an analogy for the transformation of the Christian from sinner to saint. First, it doesn’t happen anywhere in nature. It is, rather, a supernatural transformation.

Second, the transformation of coal into diamond requires the rearrangement of atoms into a new pattern. Likewise, the transformation of the Christian from sinner to saint requires a rearrangement of our thoughts and actions into a new pattern.

Finally, the transformation of coal into diamond requires high heat and high pressure. Likewise, the transformation of the Christian from sinner to saint requires trials and testing – high heat and high pressure. And it doesn’t happen overnight or even in just a few weeks. It takes a life time of pressure and the fire of the Holy Spirit to result in the transformation.

In church last Sunday, our pastor talked about the Lutheran concept of Christians being simultaneously saint and sinner. It is a constant struggle, we are under frequent pressure to rearrange the pattern of our thoughts and actions. We need to pray for each other as we undergo this life-long transformation from an old lump of coal to a diamond worthy of God’s glory. And so here is my prayer for all of you:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


3 Responses

  1. This is great, Linda!

    Thank you for the link. This is a wonderful analogy. Quite an eye opener.

    Sometimes it’s hard to swallow but yes, the process is definitely a process – not an overnight change.

    May I please have your permission to send the link to a friend?


    • Ann, You can always send a link to anything on my blog to friends! What I write is there to be shared. 🙂

      I hope this doesn’t sound vain, but when I re-read this the other night my favorite part was about how the change from coal to diamond does not happen anywhere in nature, and that the change from sinner to saint likewise does not happen in nature but is a supernatural event.

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