Tolstoy’s descriptive prose in Anna Karanina brings sin alive and makes it tangible. On page 186, Tolstoy writes of the adulterers:
“It provoked in Vronsky and Anna a feeling like that of a mariner who can see by his compass that the direction in which he is swiftly moving diverges widely from his proper course, but that he is powerless to stop the movement which every moment takes him further and further from the right direction, and that to admit the deviation to himself is the same as admitting disaster.”
Tolstoy gives a real-life example of exactly what James says:
“but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15
Sin will give birth to death. We can nip it in the bud and allow God to abort it from us early on, repent, and minimize the consequences. Or we can allow it to complete its gestation process, become full grown, and give birth to enormous consequences.
Those who choose not to repent, who choose to remain in their sin and make excuses for such, continue to deceive themselves and lie to themselves, distorting reality all around them. Tolstoy describes this well on page 189 where Anna is speaking of her husband, Alexei Alexandrovich, to her lover:
“He’s not a man, he’s a machine, and a wicked machine when he gets angry,” she added, recalling Alexei Alexandrovich in all the details of his figure, manner of speaking and character, holding him guilty for everything bad she could find in him and forgiving him nothing, on account of the terrible fault for which she stood guilty before him.”
These passages blew me away at the accuracy of the detail and description. Have you ever experienced choosing a course against the will of God and having it drag you, even while you were watching, away from your proper course? Do you have friends who will hold you accountable and speak the truth plainly to you? When you do hear the truth, are you willing to allow God to enable you to choose to repent and stop, right there and then, and end the swift movement toward disaster? Tolstoy is correct, we are unable to do this under our own power. We need the power of God.
Have you ever watched another make such choices? Have you spoken truth over another and had them reject that truth, continuing to allow themselves to be dragged away and enticed by sin, knowing that the sin would eventually become full-grown and give birth to horrible death?
These words of Tolstoy are spot-on in accuracy of one who continues in their course of sin: “holding him guilty for everything bad she could find in him and forgiving him nothing, on account of the terrible fault for which she stood guilty before him.” The one who continues to sin finds fault in others though they are the one who is guilty. Both my new husband and myself experience this with our ex spouses who were unfaithful. They still blame us for everything, coming up with more stuff, even though they are the ones who stand guilty. They continuously find all the bad and forgive nothing.
Really and truly, this must be a horrible way to live. It was not that her husband was not in need of forgiveness; we all are. It was not that he didn’t have bad in him; we all do. It’s that she magnified the bad, ignored the good, refused to forgive, and refused to see the truth, placing the guilt for her own sin on that of her husband who was innocent of this sin.
Tolstoy truly understood the nature of sin and was able to articulate such.