Lent Devotion Eight
Often when we think about sin, we think about doing bad things. Things like stealing. Committing adultery. Inflicting violence. Sins are things that you are not supposed to do. And when we do those things, we know that we have amends to make to the other parties involved, including perhaps society. There may be consequences and repercussions that we have to face.
And then there is the ‘God’ part; seeking atonement, forgiveness, restoration from God, from Divine Love, from our own sacred center. There is coming back to ourselves. Restoring our own sense of self-worth. We also have to make restitution with ourselves and the image of God within. We have to work to accept ourselves after what we have done.
But, thankfully, and we’ll get to that in a minute, that is not all there is to sin in our faith tradition. In the story of the last judgment, in Matthew chapter 25, we are told that living in a way that is pleasing to God involves not only avoiding doing ‘bad’ things, but it involves making it a point to do good things. So ministry and service and help to others is supposed to be part of our Christian DNA. That is part of the image of God within us.
And when doing good is not part of our natural inclination, we are also acting in conflict with our truest selves. Then we also have repenting to do for, as the Book of Common Prayer says, what we have left undone.
Does this mean that we are to spend every waking moment looking for people in need and serving them? No. We also need to take care of ourselves. And take delight in life and in the natural world. And make space for religious practice.
But there is more to this serving others. To this having a heart for seeing the needs of those around you and in the world. For wanting to make a difference in a way that helps others. When we help other people, it helps us. Serving others, doing good, helps our blood pressure, it effects our serotonin levels, it boosts our immune system and has other positive physical effects. When we help others it also boosts our spirits. We feel a sense of purpose and meaning. We feel useful and needed. These feelings meet our human spiritual needs. Doing things for others also enhances our relationships. We meet new people and become engaged with people at a deeper level and that also nourishes our spirits.
There is that old adage, idle hands are the devil’s playthings. I think the Christian view of sin involves much more than that. It’s not just about not doing anything bad. It is also about seeking out ways that we can do good – for the well-being of others and ourselves. And when we neglect doing the good, not only do others suffer who need our attentions, but we suffer as well. We are not living fully from the Divine image within us, and we are not attending fully to our highest good.
Of course, if you are busy doing good and serving and helping others, you may be less likely to drift into behavior and activity that is harmful to yourself and to others. The ‘bad’ stuff. But that is not the main point of doing good. Reaching out in love to others is simply good – good for the world, good for the soul. And you never know where it may lead! There definitely is a wildness in mercy. And we are all the better for it!
Prayer: Today, may I be open to seeing how I can do some good for someone else. May I work at training my heart to see the needs around me and to sharing as I am able. May I seek out ways to express the Divine Love within me. Amen.