Sin. What is it really? Is it doing something “bad”? Is it not doing something “good”? What is sin? Used to be a couple living together without being officially married was referred to as living in sin. But certainly you can be married and still be living in sin.
There are many ways to think about sin. And the church has had a lot to say about sin often in ways that were meant to threaten people and control them. The belief that sin led to suffering for eternity in hell was used to dictate and control behavior through intimidation and fear.
But sin is more complex than that. It can be personal and behavioral. It can be institutional and systemic. It can hurt you. It can hurt others. It can hurt society. Sin can wall us off from our best selves and from one another. But it can also be hard to pin down or put your finger on.
Then there are those who take the positive approach and pretty much leave sin out of the game all together. Too messy to figure that out. Too unsavory to deal with. Too complex to sort out and resolve. It doesn’t fit with the American positive, optimistic, happy-go-lucky outlook. Just lower the bar and look the other way. Don’t worry about sin. Sin? Who believes in sin?
In Christianity, sin has to do with separation. We are intended to live in community, yet we find ourselves separated. From our best selves. From others. From the sacred.
It’s interesting that animals can’t sin. They cannot commit a moral wrong. They cannot separate themselves from their innate nature. Plants cannot sin. They can cooperate and communicate but they cannot sin. Only humans can sin. It is part of what makes us human and different from other forms of life.
Lent is a season to give some thought and attention to sin even if that is not your usual bent. Sometimes to get where you want to go you have to know where you are. That’s where sin comes in.
Lectionary readings for the day:
1 John 1:3-10
[These daily readings are from the Consultation on Common Texts.]
Prayer: May I not be afraid to let sin be a teacher. May I have the courage to see myself, others, and the world with honesty trusting the lavish love of God to lead me to wholeness. Amen.