Is the idea of sin outdated?
The question and gift of moral truth
The other day, I shared in an authors group my plan to write a book entitled, "How to Never Sin Again" - and did people think it would take?
It was a mostly a joke, although the thought had flown through my head as a book I would love to read. What I got, which was my real intention, was a torrent of colourful comments which, after a few hours, were disabled by the good-natured admin.
One pragmatic member answered with complete sincerity, highlighting the importance of knowing my market, and wishing me all the best.
Others were offended at the idea sin even existed. They were dismayed that someone as young and Western as me would even bother with 'sin'.
If sin is even a thing, which I highly doubt, I plan on doing as much of it as possible!
Their repulsion was intriguing, but I wasn't surprised.
I think there's an assumption that belief in a fixed 'truth' (eg, sin) must inevitably lead to a judgement and therefore, hatred. There is a second assumption that, for some, goes hand in hand with the first, that truth does not exist at all - at least not in a moral sense.
The disgust at my suggestion sin exists and might be worth avoiding, may have come from one or both of these assumptions, because the belief in moral truth has become so ensnared with the idea of predjudice and hate.
For example, if a friend of mine thought an action I took was a sin, the flawed assumption follows that he would discriminate against me. In fact, the very notion he disagrees on principle with something I do, is an offence (ie - I am upset and hurt he won't just agree with my action) and he should be punished for making me feel bad.
Yet, religious or not, many people are familiar with the account of the woman 'caught' in adultery in the gospel of John in the Bible.
It's a popular story because the teacher, prophet, son of God, (Jesus Christ) chooses not to condemn this woman. Instead, he condemns those who are about to stone her to death. If I were in her shoes, I would be desperately hoping it was Jesus who turned up to decide my fate!
But the narrative does not end there. Before she leaves, The Teacher says this: "Go and sin no more". That part is less well known. It's true that he wanted to highlight the hypocracy in those holding stones in their hands. But in doing so, He didn't also suggest the law itself should be changed.
He could have said, "This is ridiculous - what a bigoted law. Change it, now!"
First, he taught the hypocrites a lesson (which should also be the first lesson for us), second, he loved and empowered the woman by getting down in the dirt and assuring her, "I do not condemn you", but lastly, he tells her not to *sin* again.
That, friends, is an important detail.
Consider the role of a parent. They don't change the rules created to protect and empower their children just because the kids find them difficult to keep. My toddler is not allowed to cross the road on her own, however offended she gets about it.
Parents should be offensively merciful, forgiving, kind - they must see each situation for what it is. Then, we should deal with the judgemental siblings shouting on the sidelines. Finally, we must hold fast to the standard that was compromised. Changing a boundary for the sake of short term popularity with our kids, or anyone, has nothing to do with love.
A child who receives their parents' immovability on that boundary as hateful need an even greater experience of love, but still, they do not need the rules to change.
I believe that holding fast to right and wrong is a gift for all of us. Our need is not for endless adjustments to right and wrong, but to do what Jesus modeled for those that screw up and get caught in the act.
A good parent doesn't drive on the single-carriageway of 'unconditional acceptance' that modern culture has presented as the definition of love.
Parents must hold things in tension - and they do - for the sake of their children.
You do not have to agree, to love; you do not have to approve, to love; and you do not have to stay silent about moral truth, to love.
Quite the opposite.
If there is moral truth - and I believe there is - I would want to know about it.
As it did for Christ, but contrary to popular belief, acknowledging moral truth is an intrinsic part of compassion, without which love is most definitely incomplete.
I remember when sin was sin.
I remember when wrong was wrong.
I remember when we all fell short, and got back up, much quicker than the fall.
I'm prayin' that you'd open my eyes...