There seems to be a lot of confusion about “sin” these days. You would expect that out in “the world” but there seems to be just as much confusion in the church. What’s that all about?
What is sin? I have heard it said that sin is “missing the mark.” I guess that’s pretty good. I like to think of it as doing something that hurts yourself or others or failing to do something that helps yourself or others. I don’t think God just made up an arbitrary list of do’s and don’ts just to test us. I think He loves us and knows what is best for us. It seems even in “modern” times we are learning that a lot of the seemingly arbitrary rules of the old testament, like rules about food, are pretty good nutrition advice.
Sadly, I have learned that we don’t always know what’s good for us. Some folks just stick with the do’s and don’ts as recorded in scripture. That would seem to be pretty wise, but we seem to think that “times change” and that, therefore, the rules change. Most people I know aren’t smarter than God and it seems to me what wasn’t good for us thousands of years ago probably still isn’t.
We also seem to get ourselves into trouble by ranking sins. I guess that started with the Catholics and “mortal” and “venial” sins. I mean it seems to make sense that killing someone is worse than hitting them in the mouth, but we always take things too far. For example, some think killing a person after they are born is bad; but while they are still in the womb, is no problem. They are now some who think killing folks when they start to get “old” and “useless” is no problem either.
Another problem with these classifications is that we begin to think the “little” sins are just no problem. We decide it’s okay to steal as long as we steal small or from someone who is really rich. I guess taking bread from a starving man would be a “mortal” sin, while taking a rich guy’s salad is venial.
We also tend to fall into the “everyone is doing it so it can’t be that bad” way of thinking. For years a divorce for no good reason was a big taboo. Nowadays, not so much. We have changed “happily ever after” to “as long as I am still happy.” I think if you ask children of divorce or abandoned spouses they might still think divorce pretty bad. Sex before marriage used to be taboo. Now it’s okay if you really “love” someone.
This ranking sin thing has really gotten out of hand in the church. Now some churches won’t let you in, give you the sacraments or provide a funeral when you die if you are a certain kind of sinner. I guess they think Jesus was just kidding around with that “he who is without sin cast the first stone” stuff. I wonder how we are supposed to lead folks to repentance if we don’t let them in the church. Guess it really isn’t a big deal since we don’t talk about repentance in church anymore. It’s not very PC.
I am told we should “hate” the sin, but love the sinner. Jesus just said to love God and each other. That works as long as we understand what he meant by “love.” We have really complicated “sin.” I don’t have the energy to deal what we have done with “love.” Until we really get back to understanding sin and love, we should probably just hate our sin, don’t worry about everyone else and just love them, not like we “love” chocolate or crawfish, but like Jesus loved us.