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WHAT IS SIN?
I’m not going to answer this question.
First I want to hear what you think.
With so many Christian “brands” out there, each of which has a different “take” on sin, it’s pretty hard to know how to feel and what to think when we’re in that grey area between virtue and depravity.
Roman Catholics talk about mortal sins (felonies) and venial sins (misdemeanors). Before you dismiss it out of hand, it does make some sense to treat axe murders differently than those who just make unintentional little mistakes.
We just plain ignore (no matter what our Christian/Jewish flavor) most of the sins listed in the Bible. We skateboard over the Sabbath and pick and choose what we want to follow.
There are “sins” (and everyone would disagree as to what’s on the list) and then there is “sin” as in the “human condition” of brokenness.
I was on the chairlift talking about Romans 6:23 and a young woman floored me by saying “I’ve done some wrong things but nothing to deserve a death penalty!” I had no answer for her. Isn’t she, in a sense, right?
Do we really deserve death? And what does that even mean?
Isn’t the human condition just a wee bit more complex than “total depravity?”
Some see the central sin as “idolatry” or putting something in the place of God. There is some promise in this thinking, but I can’t really wrap my head around it yet.
Laying our theologies aside, what does God think of sin?
And if what Jesus did on the cross got rid of it, then why are we still talking about it?
Did it make any difference in the human race, objectively speaking?
It seems like we are /exactly/ in the same human condition before and after saying yes to Jesus.
What does it mean to be free of sin? Does trusting Jesus’ work on the cross at a deep level guarantee any change in our behavior?
Try to answer for yourself, and not to please a former pastor or professor who may not even be alive anymore.
I hold conventional conservative Evangelical views on sin, but am trying to think of old truths in fresh ways. Perhaps you can help.
What is sin?
In Paul’s letter to the Galatian Christians in the first century, he talks about the contrast between pleasing people and pleasing God (see chapter one of Galatians).
The truth is, loving people is not the same as pleasing them. Loving them is required. Pleasing them is impossible.
We can “overshoot” people pleasing and end up totally co-dependent.
Our personality can actually disappear when we, like a chameleon walking across a patchwork quilt, exploded into a puff of smoke.
The truth is, the collective “web” of people’s expectations can smother us.
Paul calls this collective “web” the law. Most of it is good. But taken as a whole, it is impossible.
And those of us brought up in a (well meaning) religious background were fed an implied message (or even explicit one) that trying to keep all the rules and say yes to all the grownups made us “nicer” and better people. So we had a whole ‘nother layer of rules and (infinite) expectations from church and God that made our bar even higher to clear.
Add to that the expectations of peer pressure in teen years and the social expectations of advertising, the economy, our bosses, etc. and we’re in a real mess by the time we’re adults.
Our response to these impossible compounded expectations can only be a broken one. We lie. We bargain. We spin. We try to keep everyone happy. Remember Lucille Ball on the dessert assembly line? We get behind and we start to fake it and cut corners.
Isn’t this “broken response to impossible expectations” more or less a pretty good everyday definition of sin?
This would be a good place for a savior to show up :-). More coming later.